Aboriginal Veterans Commemorative Service

Premier of South Australia
Ministerial Statement

Aboriginal Veterans Commemorative Service
Delivered in the House of Assembly on the 30 May 2018

The Hon. S.S. MARSHALL (Dunstan—Premier) (14:01): I seek leave to make a ministerial statement.

Leave granted.

The Hon. S.S. MARSHALL: As Premier with responsibility for Veterans Affairs and Aboriginal affairs, I wish to advise the house of an important Reconciliation Week event and encourage the public and all members of this parliament to attend.

This Friday, 1 June, at 10.30am Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans will be honoured at the 12th annual Aboriginal Veterans Commemorative Service. The service will be held at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander War Memorial on the Torrens Parade Ground. It commemorates the distinguished military service of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in every conflict and peacekeeping mission in which Australia has participated, from the Boer War to the ongoing engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This commemorative service originated in 2007, as part of Reconciliation Week, to acknowledge the 40th anniversary of the granting of full rights of citizenship to our Aboriginal peoples. The broad acceptance given to the event has ensured that it has become a permanent fixture on South Australia’s commemorative calendar. The keynote address at this year’s service will be delivered by Jeremy Last, a 2017 Kokoda track reconciliation trekker. Jeremy and a number of other year 10 and 11 students took part in the Kokoda Track Reconciliation Trek organised by Reconciliation SA.

This experience provided students from different backgrounds with the opportunity to walk and talk together while learning about those who served, including 11 South Australian Aboriginal servicemen. With this week marking National Reconciliation Week, it is a time for all Australians to acknowledge the culture and history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. This commemorative service allows South Australians to pay tribute to the courage and tenacity of those who have served in the armed forces over the past century.

Members will recall that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander War Memorial was dedicated in 2013 by the then governor-general, Quentin Bryce, and the late Ms Marjorie Tripp AO. Marjorie was an influential Aboriginal rights campaigner who passionately fought for greater recognition of Indigenous service men and women. She was the chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander War Memorial Committee and the driving force behind its construction. It was fitting that Marjorie was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for her:

…distinguished service to the indigenous community through the promotion of improved aged care and health outcomes and recognition of indigenous Australians in the Armed Forces.

Marjorie passed away in May 2016, and the much-loved Ramindjeri elder and Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service veteran was given full military honours at her memorial service held in the Drill Hall at the Torrens Parade Ground. Marjorie will be in the thoughts of many this Friday as we gather to pay respects to Aboriginal service men and women who served our nation in times of war but had to wait a long time for the appropriate recognition of their deeds.

Our Aboriginal War Memorial recognises South Australian-born servicemen like private Gordon Charles Naley. He took part in the landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915 and later fought in the Battle of Mouquet Farm and the First Battle of Bullecourt, where he was wounded and taken prisoner by the Germans. Gordon was repatriated to England at the end of the war and married Cecilia Karsh, whom he had met during his recovery from enteric fever in 1916. They returned to Adelaide in July 1919 and had six children. Gordon passed away in 1928 at the age of 44.

To date, the Aboriginal Veterans of South Australia group has compiled a register of almost 500 Aboriginal service men and women from the Boer War to the present day. On Friday, we pay special tribute and honour the service and sacrifice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans like Gordon Naley. We will remember them.

Honourable members: Hear, hear!