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Aboriginal Diggers Fought but Couldn't Vote

Minister for Community Services Linda Burney asked NSW residents to remember the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Diggers on Anzac Day. Ms Burney will be representing Premier Nathan Rees at the 2009 Redfern Anzac Day Commemoration. She said all members of the community were welcome to attend the ceremony and show their support. Aboriginal war veterans will gather at The Block, Redfern at 1pm tomorrow to begin their Anzac Day march to Redfern Park. A commemoration service will then be held at Redfern Park reports Strret Corner on 24 April 2009.

Ms Burney said it is estimated that 500 to 800 Aboriginal Diggers served in the First World War. “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Diggers, both men and women, fought courageously for Australia in overseas conflicts, at a time when they were not even considered citizens of their own country,” Ms Burney said. “As members of the Australian Infantry Forces, they were treated as equals and paid the same as other soldiers and generally accepted without prejudice.

“They were among our true heroes who showed true grit and tenacity to defy all boundaries and to serve their country as proud Aboriginal men and women. “But many Diggers returned home from these conflicts to find that their bravery, service and sacrifice were barely recognised and to face a continuation of the White Australia Policy. “For a time, Aboriginal Diggers were not permitted to march with their comrades on ANZAC Day or to join with them in after-march events. They were not even allowed to enter RSL clubs. “Despite their service and their competence as soldiers, Aborigines were excluded from the ANZAC legend. “Aboriginal servicemen and women are now rightfully part of this tradition.”

The 2009 Redfern Anzac Day Commemoration is organised by the Coloured Diggers Project and Babana Aboriginal Men’s Group.