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Indigenous veterans to commemorate Anzac legacy

The contribution of Indigenous people to the Anzac legacy will be recognised with a service in Sydneys' Redfern Park this afternoon reported ABC news on 25 April 2009.

Indigenous Australians have served in every Australian theatre of war, despite being denied citizenship until 1967.

The New South Wales Government says it is important to recognise their contribution.

At 1:00pm today Indigenous veterans will march from The Block in Redfern to Redfern Park where a service will be held.

NSW Minister for Community Services Linda Burney says the service is open to everyone.

"Anyone that would like to come and share in this recognition and be part of the Anzac story, as far as Aboriginal people are concerned, come to the ceremony because you will be welcomed with open arms," Ms Burney said.

She says the discrimination faced by Indigenous soldiers makes it even more important to recognise their sacrifice.

"Aboriginal men and women have served in every theatre of war that Australia's been involved with, as face back as the Boer War," she said.

"But in most cases they didn't enjoy citizenship, they came home from those wars and weren't even allowed to join or enter RSL Clubs."

Queensland's Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Desley Boyle, also called on Australians to remember the contribution of Indigenous servicemen and women.

Ms Boyle says many served their country when they could not even vote.

"We celebrate our Indigenous Australians and their contribution alongside other Australians on Anzac Day," she said.

She says there are not many records of how many Indigenous people fought for Australia, but thousands went to war and should be honoured.

"I think it is amazing that at a time, particularly during World War I, World War II, when we didn't even recognise their existence, when we didn't allow them to vote, that they still loved their country, our country, so much that they put their lives on the line," she said.

Indigenous veteran George Anderson says he experienced more racism in Queensland than he did while serving in Vietnam.

"I had been into pubs and asked to leave because of my colour, and it used to nark me because of the fact that I'd just fought for this bloody country," he said.

He says he is glad Indigenous servicemen and women are being recognised.

"When I went to register the recruitment man said to me Mr Anderson, he said, 'you don't have to register'," he said.

"And I said 'why is that?' And he said, 'because you're Aboriginal', which meant that we weren't full class citizens so we didn't have to go."

More than 1,200 Indigenous personnel are currently enlisted in Australian forces.