Indigenous servicemen honoured

A member of the Gunditijmara Dancers  performs a smoke ceremony before yesterday's unveiling of the war memorial on Cannon Hill.
A member of the Gunditijmara Dancers performs a smoke ceremony before yesterday's unveiling of the war memorial on Cannon Hill.

VICTORIA'S first war memorial dedicated to the supreme sacrifice made by indigenous Australians was officially unveiled yesterday.

Indigenous elders, historians and politicians came together to reflect on the service of south-west Aboriginal men and women at the ceremony on Cannon Hill where the impressive memorial now stands.

It is only the second indigenous war memorial in Australia with a commemorative plaque installed near Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance.

Eighty-eight south-west Aboriginal war veterans have been identified as having served Australia in overseas conflicts over the past century including World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Japan, and Afghanistan.

Sergeant Ricky Morris delivered the Ode of Remebrance at yesterday's ceremony.

The East Timor and Afghanistan veteran is the 21st member of the Lovett family to serve in the Australian armed forces.

Gunditjmara Aboriginal Co-operative's Marcus Clarke said indigenous servicemen and women had been under-recognised at official ceremonies and commemorative sites.

He reflected on the hardship endured by one of his ancestors during battle in World War I and said the new plaque would give due recognition to the region's indigenous veterans.

"The Aboriginal contribution has been a missing voice from the Australian military legend and psyche for many decades," Mr Clarke said.

"We hope this new memorial can give that voice back to them."

Indigenous military historian Peter Bakker the new memorial was a practical and tangible step towards true reconciliation.

He said he was impressed by the number of people in attendance at the event.

"Despite all the personal hardships and discrimination faced by Aboriginal people at that time, these men and women enlisted in high numbers and responded to the call of duty," Mr Bakker said.

"(Yesterday was) a historic day for Aboriginal people in the south-west and across Australia because veterans all the way back to World War I are being publicly recognised for their service and commitment to Australia."

Historians have determined that more than 600 indigenous servicemen fought for Australia during World War I.