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Our Mob, Serving Country 100 years and beyond

Indigenous Champion Project poster

Indigenous Champion Project poster

For more than a century, Australian men and women have served in the Defence Force to protect our country in wars, conflicts and peace keeping operations.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander soldiers, sailors and airmen have made significant contributions to Australia’s military history from the Boer War (1899 – 1902), World War 1 (1914 -1918), World War 2 (1939 -1945), Korean War (1951 – 1953), Vietnam War (1963 -1972), and post 1972 conflicts and peacekeeping operations to the present day, our mob proudly served their country.

Like their male counterparts, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have also made a significant contribution to the defence of the nation through their service with the armed forces, civilian organisations such as the Women’s Land Army or worked in war time industries.

It is difficult to say just how many of our mob served because ethnic background was not specifically identified in service records of enlistment.  It is known that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and women served and continue to serve their country with great honour and pride in a range of operations, war, humanitarian, disaster relief, peacekeeping, border protection and emergency Defence assistance.

The Indigenous Champion Project recognises that many generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families continue to proudly serve in Australia’s armed forces, just as their ancestors did. This webpage is dedicated to our mob, serving country, 100 years and beyond. 

The photographic collection is part of the “Serving Country” Portrait series by acclaimed and award winning photographer and copyright owner, Belinda Mason.

Stories of Indigenous servicemen and women

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are warned that the following pages may contain images of deceased persons.

During the centenary of the First World War the Indigenous Champion Project is proudly honoring the service and sacrifice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Servicemen and women by sharing with you their wartime stories.

Our Mob

Portrait photo of  Bob Waterer

Portrait photo of Bob Waterer

Bob Waterer

Guringai Man

Retired Gunner, Royal Regiment of  Australian Artillery, 2/4th Field Regiment
World War 2 Veteran

‘In the Army I made many friends and the real meaning of mateship was established for me’

 
Portrait photo of Darren Davies

Portrait photo of Darren Davies

Darren Davies

Ydinji Bama Man

Former Able Seaman Boatswain Mate
Served from 5 May 2008 -  31 Aug 2014
Currently studying Social Work at James Cook University

‘Being apart of the Australian Defence Force and Royal Australian Navy was a very Proud, Honorable feeling for me’

 
Portrait photo of John Kinsela

Portrait photo of John Kinsela

John Kinsela

Wiraduri and Jawoyn Man

Retired Gunner, Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery  
Retired Corporal, Australian Army Reserve Vietnam War Veteran

 
Portrait photo of Pamela Tapim

Portrait photo of Pamela Tapin

Pamela Tapim

Torres Strait Islander

Retired Leading  Steward
Womens Royal Australian Navy (WRAN)

 
Portrait photo of Jonathan Captain-Webb

Portrait photo of Jonathan Captain-Webb

Jonathan Captain-Webb

Dunghutti and Gamilaroi Man

Currently serving Private Royal Australian Infantry Corp
Australian Regular Army

‘Graduated from 1 Recruit Training Battalion (Kapooka) with an award for Most Outstanding Soldier’

 
Portrait photo of an unknown soldier

Portrait photo of an unknown soldier

An unknown Soldier

This young, unidentified Aboriginal soldier is thought to have served with the 20th Australian Infantry Battalion, on the Western Front during the First World War. This young man left his home land and loved ones to fight for the freedoms we enjoy today.

P01703.001 Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial

 
Portrait photo of Private Ted Fairy

Portrait photo of Private Ted Fairy

Private Ted Fairy

A young  Aboriginal Soldier from the Second World War.

P01651.013 Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial

 
Portrait photo of Lateika Smith

Portrait photo of Lateika Smith

Lateika Smith

Gumbaynggirr Woman

Current serving Leading Seaman Communications and Information Services
Royal Australian Navy

'To serve is to be part of a proud tradition that connects you to the past and the future'

 
Portrait photo of Ray Rosendale

Portrait photo of Ray Rosendale

Ray Rosendale

KuKu Yalanji man of the Western Sunset Clan

Current serving Chief Petty Officer Coxswain and
The Chief of Navy’s Strategic Advisor on Indigenous Cultural Affairs
Royal Australian  Navy
Peacekeeping Operations and Gulf War Veteran

‘I am very humbled and proud to have served both my country and my people’

 
Portrait photo of Ken Zulumovski

Portrait photo of Ken Zulumovski

Ken Zulumovski

Kabi Kabi Man

Gunner, Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery
Inactive Army Reserve

‘the army took ordinary men and made us believe we could be extraordinary it made men out of us’

 
Portrait photo of Barry Gissell

Portrait photo of Barry Gissell

Barry Gissell

Murrawarri Man

Retired National Serviceman and Vietnam War Veteran

 
Portrait photo of Murray Hall

Portrait photo of Murray Hall

Murray Hall

Marra and Kabi Kabi Man

Current serving Able Seaman Boatswains Mate
Royal Australian Navy

‘Defence has given me the confidence to be a stronger man and to provide for my family’

 
Portrait photo of Sheryl Cimera

Portrait photo of Sheryl Cimera

Sheryl Cimera nee Challenger

Yamitji Woman

Private, Womens Royal Australian Army Corp (WRAAC)

‘I loved being in the army and the camaraderie’

 
Portrait photo of John Schnaars

Portrait photo of John Schnaars

John Schnaars

Aboriginal

Retired National Serviceman and Vietnam War Veteran

‘I have to try to right a small wrong from many years ago that happened to these veterans. I believe it was the veterans who went away to war then, who had no rights in this country to vote or anything, and that it was those men and women, the few women that went away, that changed the course of history on the way Australia felt towards Aborigines.'

'In my view, they were the people who led the change of history in Australia, towards Aboriginals being able to vote and have rights. It's for that reason, I think, that we owe them a lot...’

 
Portrait photo of Roy 'Zeke Mundine

Portrait photo of Roy 'Zeke' Mundine

Roy ‘Zeke’ Mundine OAM (Military)

Bundjalung Man

Retired Warrant Officer Class One Royal Australian Regiment
Australian Regular Army
Vietnam War Veteran

‘I went forward to check this place out and when I was moving forward I tripped a mine and it blew my leg off. If you are the leader of the push, if you go down, if things don’t work properly, you’ll all go down. You’ll all end up dead. Its what you gotta do, you’re no good to them dead,  you know you’re no good to them dead.  That’s it, it’s a fact of life, they say life is a death sentence and numerous reprieves, make the best of it’

Roy received an OAM Military for his 36 years of serving with distinction in the armed services.
 

 
Portrait photo of Garth O'Connell

Portrait photo of Garth O'Connell

Garth O'Connell

Gamilaraay (Kamilaroi) Man

Current serving Corporal Royal Australian Infantry Corp
Australian Army Reserve

‘I believe that the century old spirit of Anzac is a modern manifestation of the traditional First Nations spirit of protecting Country; a spirit, tradition and sense of duty which has existed for millennia. Our service in the Australian Defence Force has seen the continuity of this probably, the world’s largest cultural tradition of serving country’

 
Portrait photo of  Natalie Whyte

Portrait photo of Natalie Whyte

Natalie Whyte

Olkolo Woman

Lance Corporal, Royal Australian Army Ordinance Corp
Iraq War Veteran

‘One thing I’ve learned in the military is that even though we all wear the green a soldier is never socially colour blind. You are judged by your merits, by your behaviour and the way you represent your organisation, your unit and your fellow soldiers. Not your background. The enemy will kill indiscriminately therefore one cannot afford to be socially prejudice, such is the nature of the beast. How ironic is it that the Army life should offer more social equality and acceptance then the civilian world.’

 
Portrait photo of Thomas Tjiangu

Portrait photo of Thomas Tijiangu

Thomas Tijiangu

Torres Strait

AC TRN, Royal Australian Air Force

‘Strength doesn’t have to be loud and belligerent’

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