More than 4000 Indigenous Australians fought in the first and second world war - many from the south-west - but little is known about their sacrifice.
Now Warrnambool's RSL wants to change that.
The organisation is creating a video, which will be uploaded online after Warrnambool's dawn service. It is hoped it will be used as a teaching video for students about the history of Indigenous soldiers.
New RSL president Michael Bellamy said that while people heard of and acknowledge the heroic acts and sacrifice of those that have served our nation, little is known publicly about the presence and contribution of indigenous men and women in the armed forces.
He said more than 1000 Indigenous Australians fought in the First World War, and more than 3000 in the Second World War - and that's not counting those that went to Korean and Vietnam or the more recent conflicts.
"Up to 1967 Indigenous Australians were not recognized as citizens, could not vote and had few rights, yet despite this they joined and gallantly served our nation in time of need," he said.
"After the world wars, Aboriginal veterans received little public recognition or support and were denied access to schemes that provided returning soldiers with land and job opportunities."
About 13 years ago, in a first for regional Victoria, a dedicated memorial to Aboriginal soldiers was built in Warrnambool to officially recognise contributions of the Indigenous community in the past century.
Elder Uncle Robert Lowe Senior said it wasn't until he was approached by someone researching the region's Indigenous soldiers that he found out just how many there were.
Mr Lowe said growing up he remembered his uncle walking around the Framlingham mission station wearing an army jacket, but it wasn't until he was contacted by former Warrnambool historian Peter Bakker that he found out he had served during the war in Darwin and Queensland.
"Although he didn't say he was part of the service, we just presumed he wore this jacket that he may have got from an op shop or something," he said. "We never asked the question and he didn't tell us until we started to do the research and that's when I found out my uncle did serve. So the jacket he had on was part of that."
Mr Lowe's uncle served twice during WWII - the second stint serving on Australian shores for 12 months as a gunner.
He also found out that his great uncle had served in the First World War, but was delisted after the first seven months due to illness.
Three of Mr Lowe's wife's uncles also served in WWII and one served at Korea.
Mr Lowe has put a number of plaques on a rock at the Framlingham cemetery as a way of remembering those who served, and he hopes others will add plaques to acknowledge the sacrifice of their relatives.
He said there were 26 Indigenous soldiers from the Framlingham settlement that served in various conflicts - across the wider south-west that number was as high as 1000. Many were recognised with bravery awards.
"The ones that did come back never came back to the mission. It was a bit of shame that they didn't come back home, but then again you can understand why they didn't come back home because of the way they were treated," Mr Lowe said.
"I suppose, if there is any good thing about it, when they served they served as one - Indigenous and non-Indigenous - they were all classed the same. There was never any discrimination that we've heard.
"But the biggest thing is when they came out of the army and all the discrimination started, the abuse started. They weren't allowed in the hotels. They never got what non-Indigenous soldiers got. They were virtually put back on the street."
Mr Lowe said one parcel of land that had been left to Indigenous communities was turned into a soldier settlement after the war, and the Indigenous people who lived there were asked to move.
"That's the thing that Indigenous soldiers never had, the luxury of having a farm or small business that they can look forward to when they left the service and that's the sad part about it," he said.
Mr Lowe said the service of Indigenous people didn't get a lot of attention, bar a small handful. "It's like the rest virtually didn't exist," he said.
Mr Lowe said when Mr Bakker visited the grave of an Indigenous Boer War soldier in Sydney cemetery, the only acknowledgement that there was a grave there was a red brick.
The new video will also feature Indigenous veteran John Burns who served alongside Warrnambool Vietnam Veteran Doug Heazlewood in 1966 as part of the 103rd field artillery battery.
"He took part in the battle of Long Tan, as I did. He was a great member of a great team," Mr Heazlewood said. "He's the only artillery solider who took part in the two big artillery engagements in Vietnam, long Tan and Coral. Nobody else can say that."
Mr Heazlewood said Mr Burns still worked hard for veterans and the RSL. "He recognises that in the army there was this phenomenon called 'the big green skin' that is when you put your jungle green stuff on, everybody was the same," he said
In retelling the stories of Indigenous soldiers in the video, Mr Heazlewood said the RSL was embracing the value that's been provided over many years by the Aboriginal community to military service in Australia.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
- Bookmark https://www.standard.net.au/
- Make sure you are signed up for our breaking and regular headlines newsletters.
- Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
- Tap here to open our Google News page.
- Join our Courts and Crime Facebook group and our dedicated Sport Facebook group.
- If you have subscribed, join our subscriber-only Facebook group.
Listen to the latest episode of our weekly podcast The Booletin and Beyond:
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.
Our COVID-19 news articles relating to public health and safety are free for anyone to access. However, we depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.