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Organiser Aunty Phyllis Cubby. Photo TWH

Goodooga, a small tranquil community in the Brewarrina Shire, burst with energy on the 15 August as the locals and visitors met to commemorate and honour two courageous Indigenous diggers from the town who made significant sacrifices for their country during World War II.

This event also aimed to acknowledge the vital roles our First Nations People played in various wars.

From respected Goodooga elder Aunty Phyllis Cubby, to dedicated individuals like Warren ‘Pig’ Morgan and musician, John Paul Young, a collective effort ensured the success of this day.

The commemoration was opened by Kevin Hooper with a smoking ceremony and local students Kyeisha Orcher and Maleek Lane Brown performing Welcome to Country.

Local Indigenous performer, Kelsie Barker’s rendition of “We Are Australian” was sung in two local indigenous languages and in English. The haunting beauty of the performance seemed to silence even the wildlife.

The day was filled with speeches, performances, music, culture, and poetry read by Aunty Phyllis Cubby regarding Privates Harold West and George Leonard.

During World War II, Indigenous Privates Harold West and George Leonard demonstrated unwavering bravery in the defence of Australia.

Despite being denied basic citizenship rights, these childhood friends volunteered to fight for their country on the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea.

Private Harold West, known as “The Ghost of Kokoda,” had remarkable tracking skills that earned him the reputation that “he could track a Geegar (a little black ant) up a crowbar after six inches of rain”.

Enlisting in Paddington on August 23, 1941, Harold joined up alongside his best friend, Private George Leonard and served with the 2/1st Battalion AIF, on the Kokoda Track.

In their youth, they were taught vital survival and tracking knowledge, learning how to live off the land and navigate the wilderness.

Tragically, Private George Leonard fell victim to a mortar attack during the Second Battle of Eora Creek in October 1942, at the age of 31, as Australian forces clashed with Japanese troops attempting to seize Port Moresby.[…]

Read more in the printed edition of The Western Herald.

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