Andrea Gerrard, now a Ph.D. student at the University of Tasmania, has been researching Tasmanian Aboriginal soldiers from WW1 for a number of years. The names of the 64 soldiers she has identified were published in the Hobart Mercury on 9th November, prior to Remembrance Day, 2012.

The results of her research were not available when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Volunteers for the AIF: The Indigenous response to World War One, was first published in 2011. However 48 of the names now made public by Mrs Gerrard were listed in this edition together with the names of a further seven men which do not appear in the Mercury list. What is exciting about Mrs Gerrard’s research is that it has enabled her to name an additional sixteen volunteers, including more members of the families of men mentioned in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Volunteers.

Mrs Gerrard’s list as it appears in the Mercury is not referenced – but subject to this, the sixteen new names she puts forward bring the number of identified volunteers from Tasmania to 71 and boost the number of volunteers, excluding second enlistments, to 838. It is inevitable that this number will grow as new names are discovered and others already known are confirmed.

Writing in 2011 Mrs Gerard had this to say about her research:

Private John William Miller who served with the 12th Battalion was the grandson of Fanny Cochrane Smith who was a well known identity in both the white and aboriginal communities. Private Miller was killed at the landing at Gallipoli. It was John Miller that started me on this journey and as an historian it is a privilege to work on this group of men. None needed to enlist, but the fact that they did so, often against the odds is worth celebrating. Aboriginal Anzacs AWM Blog 17 April 2011

Mrs Gerrard states that she has found the only Aboriginal officer to date. This could change but as it stands her discovery and research are important milestones in the journey to unfold and make known the part played by men of Aboriginal heritage in WW1.

Philippa Scarlett 13 January 2013

About Indigenous Histories

Author & Publisher of Australian history, art and culture.
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