Journal article

Serving their country: a short history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service in the Australian Army

6 Sep 2013


Throughout the history of the Australian Army, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women have served with distinction. During the first half of the twentieth century they served despite regulations prohibiting the enlistment of persons ‘not substantially of European origin or descent’. When they managed to skirt the rules and enlist however, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women often found military service an egalitarian experience providing education and employment opportunities denied them in civilian life. The friendships Australian Indigenous personnel forged with non-Indigenous soldiers broke down barriers and fostered non-Indigenous allies in the struggle for Indigenous rights. This article provides a brief overview of the history of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contribution to the Australian Army, grounded in the human stories of those Indigenous men and women who served across the twentieth century.

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