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Bourke remembers Indigenous diggers

RSL members, Victor Bartley and Kelly Lienesch, inpsecting the roll of honour after the tribute to indigenous diggers. Photo Layton Holley

Many gathered in the gardens of the Bourke Aboriginal Corporation Health Service grounds last Friday, to pay tribute to the Aboriginal service men and women who served their country.

At the Aboriginal Remembrance Day ceremony rounding out NAIDOC week, Trae Wilson picked things up with a ‘welcome to country’ before passing the microphone to Bourke RSL president, Victor Bartley.

“When I joined the army and went to Vietnam,” Victor said, “although I was an Aboriginal it made no difference because there was only one colour, and that was green.

“Today is very significant because, until the referendum in 1967, we weren’t even recognised as Australian citizens, but we were fighting its wars, which is a great contradiction.

“So today is about recognising what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have done, and are doing, in defending this great country.”

Vice President of the Bourke RSL, Kelly Lienesch, who served in the air force, and was deployed to East Timor in 2001, followed Victor on the podium.

“Australia’s First Nations people have always volunteered to be part of our great country’s commitment to all wars that Australia has been involved in,” Kelly said.

“How many indigenous Australians served in our wars and conflicts may never be known.

“We must also remember that before the referendum in 1967, all indigenous men and women who served in the armed forces were not Australian citizens.

“Still, they volunteered to do so because of their love and pride for their country and mateship.

“What we do know, and it is only now beginning to be more accepted and documented, is that from WW1 to today’s war in the Middle East, our indigenous men and women have been well represented in all our armed services.

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