No Less Worthy
Acknowledging Western Australian Aboriginal Men in World War
Aboriginal History WA
Western Australia Museum 2019
Paperback 156pp RRP $35.00
Reviewer: Neville Taylor, July 2019
This extremely well-presented work does proud the Indigenous Western Australians who served in the First World War. Despite extensive research, the authors feel that some who did volunteer have, for various reasons, not been able to be identified. One hundred and thirty-five are known to have volunteered and 83 actively served despite it not being legal for people ‘not of European descent’ to be enlisted.
The Hon Ben Wyatt MLA, current WA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, himself an Indigenous Royal Military College Duntroon graduate, has penned an impressive Foreword. The List of Volunteers contains all 135 names and where their details are located in the text. Where no personal photograph is available, a copy of the Application to Enlist, Attestation Paper or other relevant document has been substituted. Most biographies are detailed in terms of Rank, Regimental Number, date and place of birth, parents and siblings, enlistment and discharge dates, and date and place of death. Comprehensive summaries of service and life in Australia after discharge are included. Some, of course, went on to serve in World War II. Included are poems and personal letters home. The biographies conclude with details of their demise and their final resting place.
On enlistment, virtually all enlistees did their initial training at Blackboy Hill. Numerous photographs of the early days of public events, enlistment queues and training that were published in the Western Mail have been included. For all who served, the return home failed to live up to their expectations: whilst being treated as equals when in uniform, they experienced none of the considerations of their non-Indigenous comrades in arms on their return to Australia. The 50 who were rejected on grounds of origin or descent or on medical grounds have been allocated their own sections in the text.
The publication concludes with an extensive Glossary of numerous sections, a Recommended Reading List and list of Acknowledgements. Whilst the publication is a paperback in ‘coffee table’ format, it comes encased in a sturdy hard cover for protection.
This is a fitting tribute to those who were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for their nation, far out of their comfort zone and their country. It joins Noah Riseman and Richard Trembath’s Defending Country, Ric Teague’s Born on Anzac Day and Peter Rees’ The Missing Man, to name some of the other works on our shelves on the contribution of Indigenous people to the Australian Defence Force since Federation.