Our Mob Served
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Histories of War and Defending Australia
Allison Cadzow, Mary Anne Jebb (Eds)
Northcote, Vic: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2019
Paperback 320pp RRP $39.95
Reviewer: Mike O’Brien, November 2020
This well-presented book provides the stories of at least 180 personnel - all ‘First Australians’ – who have served in the Australian Defence Force. It is one of the results of an Australia-wide study called ‘Serving our country: A history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the defence of Australia’ which was led by the well-known Mick Dodson, AM, Australian of the Year in 2009.
The range of conflicts is wide, from the Boer War to the present. What is particularly striking is the large number of family groups with defence participation – it is almost as if the clan entered as a team.
The book was assembled by a comprehensive oral history project. The 180 stories are diverse, but they frequently have a common core. Enlistment was often difficult, though once achieved was met with equality and mateship rather than discrimination. Post-conflict treatment was far less equitable. However, most have a very favourable memory of their defence service.
Enlistment papers do not differentiate between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal service personnel so it is sadly near to impossible to ever produce a comprehensive record (let alone a nominal roll) of such service. RUSIV Library has made an effort to assemble as much published material as it can on their significant contribution. This book is a major contribution to this collection and to the knowledge of Aboriginal service.
The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.