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'Our Mob Served' Newcastle Yarn Ups

bronze banner featuring ANU's Serving Our County logo at its centre
'Our Mob Served' Newcastle Yarn Ups

Serving our Country: a history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the defence of Australia first Community Yarn Up (oral/video and photo history recording sessions) was held at the Yamuloong Conference Centre in Newcastle in March 2014.

Professor Mick Dodson and Professor John Maynard from the Wollotuka Institute at the University of Newcastle led the Yarn Up. Key themes around returning to civilian life and injuries, families experiences and the career options that opened up for some people who joined the defence forces emerged during the stories shared by ex-service personnel and their families.


Mick Pittman who served in the RAAF for 21 years

 Angela Pearce who discussed the service of her great uncle Bert Nixon in the Korean War,

June Rose who discussed her Uncles’ Bill and Joe’s World War 2 service, and in particular their repatriation.

John Lester spoke about about the World War 2 service of his father Athol Frederick Lester in New Guinea, and his post-war life in Sydney.

Leanne Holt talked about her grandfather Herbert Arthur Lilley’s service in World War 2, and the World War 1 service of her Great Uncles Albert Lilley Knight and Sidney Lilley Knight, all from the Karuah Mission. 

Ray Kelly spoke about the service of his Uncle and Great Uncle in World War 2, and the great honour in which they are held in his family.

Tab Pittman spoke about his uncles, Clarence, James and Laurie, who all served in World War 2.

And Laurel Williams  spoke about the service of Indigenous men and women from around the NSW Central Coast area, including family and wider community members who have served in all the major conflicts from World War 1 through to Afghanistan.

The project team returned to Newcastle in September 2014 and spoke with  Hilda Connors  about her father, Frederick John Blair and his service during World War 2. Hilda believes that Frederick and other aboriginal men were forcibly taken into the army and sent to serve in Turkey. She also discussed the lack of recognition her father and other men received when they returned home.

In October 2014 Dawn Conlan shared her family history of service, including that of her Great Uncle Maurice Wright who served in World War 2 and was held captive as a POW in Changi.

 Ron Powell  discussed his family’s history of service, including cousin Percy Kennedy Jr who served and died of illness in World War 1 and his great uncle Sydney Archibald Wilson who served in both World Wars. 

Stephen Griffin  spoke about his father Colin Griffin’s World War 2 service in the Pacific and his father’s post war experiences, including mental trauma and the long term effects of the physical wounds he sustained in the war.

David Nean shared his experience in Vietnam in 1967-68 with 7RAR.