While the experience of Aboriginal men in the AIF is receiving increasing attention the experience of their families – particularly wives, mothers and sisters on the home front has to date been relatively neglected.
Aboriginal women’s stories are in many ways the same as those of non Indigenous women – but they are also different. The difference is created by the circumstances of Aboriginal life – lived in so many instances ‘under the Act’ and subject to restrictions on personal liberty and removal of children by the state. Not only this but allotments made to them from a soldier’s pay were in some cases made to a state Protection Board rather than to the woman herself.
Information about these women is not readily forthcoming but should not be impossible to piece together starting with service records, the most readily available source supplemented by other selected primary and secondary sources and hopefully helped by memories and knowledge held by families.
Women of Empire Exhibition is a travelling exhibition launching in February 2015. After touring Australian locations it will move to New Zealand and Canada and possibly further afield. The project is keen to include stories of Aboriginal women.
Contemporary newspaper articles show that Aboriginal communities supported the service of Aboriginal men they saw as fighting for the Empire and for King and Country, ironic though this seems in view of the treatment of Indigenous people under the Empire’s rule. Barambah in Queensland was one community which was active in raising funds for the war effort.
More about the Women of Empire Exhibition can be found at www.womenofempire.com. Contact details are firstname.lastname@example.org
22 October 2014