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ANZAC DAY 2008 “Coloured Digger” March, Ecumenical Service and Exhibition, Redfern NSW Australia

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women have fought courageously for Australia in all overseas conflicts. They are Australia’s Unsung Heroes reports this Media Alert of 3 March 2008 from the “Coloured Digger” about ANZAC Day 2008.

Many Diggers returned home from international conflicts to find their bravery, service and sacrifice barely recognised and to face a continuation of the White Australia Policy. Some returned to find that while they had been away fighting for their country their children had been taken from their home and placed in institutions. Others found their families were denied access to their pay and other benefits while they were away. Later on, Aboriginal Diggers were not permitted to march with their comrades on ANZAC Day or to join with them in after-march events.

The acts of bravery of these men and women have however always been proudly recognised and respected by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities they represented and by many of their fellow servicemen and servicewomen.

During the 2nd World War, Sapper Bert Beros wrote a special poem called “The Coloured Digger” about one of his comrades, Private West. Bert Beros' poem (copy at foot of this page) is one of the inspirations behind this project.

People in the broader community are also now wanting to support Aboriginal people by giving appropriate recognition and respect to our Unsung Heroes. However, others in the community are completely unaware of the wartime contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The 2006 and 2007 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ANZAC Day events were held in recognition of all these factors.

On ANZAC Day 2006, Aboriginal church leaders and non-Aboriginal people in Redfern conducted a special ANZAC Day memorial service. This service began the process of recognising, respecting and commemorating the memory of those brave Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Diggers and other servicemen and women and recognising their service in the defence of our country in world conflicts.

The Coloured Digger project is being undertaken by the Babana Aboriginal Mens Group Inc. in cooperation with the Aboriginal Churches Partnership of Redfern and Waterloo. The Aboriginal churches Partnership includes representatives of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry; Anglican Diocese of Sydney-Crossroads Aboriginal Ministries, Redfern; Koorie Lighthouse Ministries, Redfern; and the Uniting Church (UAICC). Babana Mens Group Inc. is not-for-profit organisation comprising Aboriginal and Non Aboriginal men seeking to achieve socially beneficial outcomes in Redfern and Waterloo and to support, enable and empower Aboriginal men and families in the community.(see www.treocom.net/babana/ ).

The Coloured Digger Project Steering Committee thanks Reg Lynch for allowing use of “TheColoured Digger” logo.

On ANZAC Day 2007, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal servicemen and service women and supporters marched through Redfern to an ecumenical service at St Saviours Anglican Church. Redfern’s Damien Minton Gallery hosted an associated “Coloured Diggers” art exhibition displaying works by 30 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists, each drawing on related themes, such as the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Islander servicemen and servicewomen and ongoing discrimination against them upon their return to civilian life. Included in the exhibition was a model of a memorial sculpture to Aboriginal Diggers by acclaimed Aboriginal artist and bronze work sculptor, Anthony Symonds.

The 2006 and 2007 events did much to raise awareness of the contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and servicewomen.

ANZAC Day, Redfern, Friday 25 April, 2008

On ANZAC Day 2008, a street march, ecumenical commemorative service at St Saviours Anglican Church and artist’s exhibition at the Damien Minton Gallery will again be held in Redfern.

During the ecumenical service a Roll of Honour bearing names of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and servicewomen who participated in the 2007 Redfern ANZAC Day events and of other Aboriginal servicemen and servicewomen will be formally unveiled during the St Saviours service. This truly unique Roll of Honour is being prepared by celebrated Redfern Aboriginal artist Adam Hill.

2008 Redfern ANZAC Day program

1.00pm: Assemble at The Block, Redfern

1.15pm: March to St Saviours Church, Redfern

1.45pm: St Saviours Church Ecumenical Service

3.45pm: Service Finish

  • Service followed by afternoon tea in St Saviours Church Hall from 3.45 – 4.30pm
  • Transport available for those unable to march but wanting to travel with the marchers

Contacts:

Ray Minniecon:         0417 929 701

David Williams:        0409 813 741

Harry Allie:               (02) 8255 7614


“ The Coloured Digger ” Project

Honouring , recognising and respecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and servicewomen

The Coloured Digger project is being undertaken by the Babana Aboriginal Mens Group Inc. in cooperation with the Aboriginal Churches Partnership of Redfern and Waterloo. The Aboriginal churches Partnership includes representatives of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry; Anglican Diocese of Sydney-Crossroads Aboriginal Ministries, Redfern; Koorie Lighthouse Ministries, Redfern; and the Uniting Church (UAICC). Babana Mens Group Inc. is not-for-profit organisation comprising Aboriginal and Non Aboriginal men seeking to achieve socially beneficial outcomes in Redfern and Waterloo and to support, enable and empower Aboriginal men and families in the community.(see www.treocom.net/babana/ ).

The Coloured Digger Project Steering Committee thanks Reg Lynch for allowing use of “The Coloured Digger” logo.


"The Coloured Digger"

He came and joined the colours, when the War God's anvil rang,

He took up modern weapons to replace his boomerang,

He waited for no call-up, he didn't need a push,

He came in from the stations, and the townships of the bush.

He helped when help was wanting, just because he wasn't deaf;

He is right amongst the columns of the fighting A.I.F.

He is always there when wanted, with his Owen gun or Bren,

He is in the forward area, the place where men are men.

He proved he's still a warrior, in action not afraid,

He faced the blasting red-hot fire from mortar and grenade;

He didn't mind when food was low, or we were getting thin,

He didn't growl or worry then, he'd cheer us with his grin.

He'd heard us talk democracy--, They preach it to his face--

Yet knows that in our Federal House there's no one of his race.

He feels we push his kinsmen out, where cities do not reach,

And Parliament has yet to hear the Aborigine’s maiden speech.

One day he'll leave the Army, then join the League he shall,

And he hope's we'll give a better deal to the Aboriginal.

(This poem, by Sapper Bert Beros, a non-Aboriginal soldier in World War Two was written about Private West - one of his Aboriginal comrades


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