In Australia the ANZACs have hero status and ANZAC Day is a day of many commemorations where Australia’s ex-servicemen and servicewomen march the streets. But many people don’t know about Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander war veterans and the coloured diggers march which started in 2007.
Babana Aboriginal Men’s Group Sydney is an annecto partner that works with the local community to hold the annual Coloured Diggers ANZAC Day event. This is one of a few similar events across the nation that focus on the important work that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have done to protect our country.
Over the past three years alongside Babana Aboriginal Men’s Group, annecto and our other Aboriginal partner organisation Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation (KBHAC) have laid wreaths in solidarity with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members.
KBHAC not only recognises the contribution that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have made to the various conflicts overseas and the colonial wars fought here on home soil, it also acknowledges that some of these soldiers had their children kidnapped while they were serving their country, and those children became part of what we now know as the Stolen Generation.
This year Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, Governor of NSW David Hurley, Deputy Leader of the Opposition Tanya Plibersek, and other dignitaries participated in the march.
Babana Aboriginal Men’s Group Chairman Mark Spinks, who was the founder of the march along with Pastor Ray Minniecon, said that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and servicewomen did not come back and were buried overseas, while those soldiers who did return received little or no recognition. “It is important as part of our culture to be buried on our land. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who did come back were not able to march in the ANZAC parade, so we created the coloured digger march to honour and respect our people who served and died for this country – lest we forget.”
annecto CEO Estelle Fyffe believes all Australians should learn more about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander diggers and what they did for the country. Estelle said “We honour all soldiers on ANZAC Day and the sacrifice they made, the families who have been affected by war and the generations that follow. For the coloured diggers, this event particularly honours our First Peoples who chose to fight for Australia, their bravery and the legacy they leave behind.”