Kevin Gilbert Canberra Times 2 Feb 1991 

Kevin Gilbert Courtesy Fairfax Press

In early September 1991 Kevin Gilbert was photographed by Richard Briggs against the background of the Australian War Memorial. He carries a cross in almost Christ like manner as he walks towards Anzac Parade. However it is unlikely that this symbolism was Christian. Gilbert’s creation spirit was Baiame. Rather the cross was generally symbolic of the sacrifice of the Aboriginal inhabitants of Australia during more than 200 years of undeclared war against invasion and of the ongoing suffering of his people. Gilbert himself said at the time

I represent Aboriginal people who have fought with honour and given their lives for justice and for the land – as none have done for so long as my people. This is a memorial to those who have fought and died and continue to die in the continuing massacre against us. Interview with Amanda Uhlmann, Canberra Times 3 September 1991. 

Kevin Gilbert-ForThoseWho Died in Defence of Our Land  6325 (2) Kevin Gilbert with journalist  Amanda Uhlmann, Anzac Parade. Courtesy Eleanor Gilbert

In seeking recognition of Australia’s first and unfinished war, and commemoration of the sacrifice of its participants he brought his plea and protest to the hub of remembrance of the war service of Australians and linked it with the phrase used to encapsulate the act of remembering war: LEST WE FORGET. The wayside memorial he constructed in a then vacant space on Anzac parade – already lined with officially sanctioned memorials – bears the sign THIS SITE IS A MEMORIAL TO ALL ABORIGINAL PEOPLE WHO HAVE DIED IN DEFENSE OF OUR LAND LEST WE FORGET.

The use of the phrase ‘Lest we forget’ of biblical origin was boosted by Rudyard Kipling’s poem known as the Recessional which was adopted by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission after World War One. The poem, which cautioned against the hubris of power was written for Queen Victoria, whose Empire was responsible for the dispossession of Aboriginal people. It reads in part ‘… we hold Dominion over palm and pine. Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget – lest we forget!’ Despite the later official and general use of this phrase the war of invasion has been largely forgotten or is ignored by non-Aboriginal people.

Members of Kevin Gilbert’s immediate family served in World War Two and others of his extended Wiradjuri family volunteered for World War One. However in 1991 the story of Australia’s war participation was predominantly a white one which excluded Aboriginal war service. Although the movement to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service in Australia’s overseas wars was growing, it was still in its infancy. In 2014 to a large extent this battle for recognition has been won. Not so the battle waged by Gilbert and others to achieve recognition of the ongoing war which began with invasion, in which Aboriginal people fought for their country, their land. Recognition by some historians has been forthcoming but this is only half the battle. The next step is for this long and bloody war to be officially remembered by the Australian nation and the Australian War Memorial.

Philippa Scarlett 24 April 2014  

Thank you to Ellie Gilbert for permission to use her photograph and for additional information.  More about the extent of the war and its casualties and the attitude of the Australian War Memorial can be found at

Posted in Uncategorized, WW1, WW2 | 4 Comments


Research earlier this year by Hamilton historian Peter Bakker has located another Aboriginal man who fought in the Boer war. Bakker has found that Jack Alick was in the pre-Federation New South Wales First Australian Horse and has also been able to locate an attestation for Alick in the name of John Allick for service in the 1902 Australian Commonwealth Horse. Information in this record links Alick with a well known Aboriginal family originating in the Braidwood area of New South Wales.

Jack Alick detail from Federal Contingent 1902 Town and Country Journal

Detail from a photograph of the Federal contingent before it sailed for South Africa in 1902 . It was published in the Town and Country Journal and  shows Jack Alick (bottom right). The photo and its caption combined with information found in contemporary newspaper articles were the keys to Peter Bakker’s discovery of the Boer war service of Jack Alick.

John/Jack Alick (and spelling variations) also known as Jack Bond (service number 1063 ) was one of a group of Braidwood volunteers who left Australia on 17 January 1900 with the second contingent of the First Australian Horse. The contingent arrived in Cape Town, South Africa on 23 February, 1900 and joined up with the first contingent in March. The group advanced to Pretoria and beyond, taking part in action ranging from minor skirmishes to battles including engagements at Poplar Grove, Zand River, Diamond Hill, Zilicats Nek, Kameel Drift and the battle of Belfast. They arrived back in Australia, in Sydney on 2 May 1901 after almost a year and a half of war. Jack Alick’s arrival with the second contingent was mentioned in passing by another Braidwood volunteer in a letter home.

The last contingent of Australian Horse joined us a fortnight ago with Captain Thompson, Vaughan, and a few more Braidwooditcs, but none of my old mates whom I expected. Jack Alick was telling me that the Kings tried hard to come, but luck was against them Well, I was disappointed at hearing that.

The experience of the non Indigenous Kings contrasts with Jack Alick’s own. Jack Alick’s experience also contrasts with that of the other identified Aboriginal men in the Commonwealth Australian Horse. F King and E Davis are referred to as ‘Black Trackers’ while Jack Alick who was also a tracker is not referred to as such and was enlisted as a trooper. The enlistment of all three was before the question of service overseas of men not of substantial European origin had been addressed by the newly established Commonwealth of Australia. Jack Alick elaborated on some of his pre-Federation service in a letter home published by the Braidwood press in September 1900.

The following letter from the black tracker, Jack Alick, who joined the Australian Horse and went to the war, will be interesting. It is addressed to Mr George Larkins, Krawarree, and was received on Tuesday last :— 

Korvall Pont, Convalescent Camp, September 4, 1900,

DEAR George,— I now take the opportunity of writing you a few lines to let you know I am still alive and kicking. I have been unfortunate enough to take an attack of fever from which I fell sick at Johannesburg just three months ago, but I am pleased to say I have almost fully recovered and am feeling well again. I have not seen the regiment since I fell sick and I am not particularly anxious to rejoin them as I am quite satisfied where I am now having an easy time here, doing no duty. I have seen quite enough fighting and have had some very narrow squeaks. It is a very healthy place here and we are close to the Orange River and also the bridge which was blown up some time ago. We are surrounded on all sides by kopjes, and after 10 o’clock in the morning we are free to roam wherever we like and sometimes I take a turn at climbing, but not often as I have seen enough of these kopjes. I have been amongst all sorts and sizes of troops since my sickness, regulars and volunteers from almost every regiment out here and I must say they are as a majority a most lively and jolly lot of chaps and damned good company, especially in the tent where I am now. I understood yon bad a good days races at Snowball on Easter Monday and hope yon all enjoyed yourselves. Of course it wasn’t my luck to be there, but I enjoyed a night out in the rain on the veldt on Easter Monday without tents, and also the two following nights, after which I felt slightly washed out. I haven’t space enough to go into details of all the fighting, &c I have been through, but will give you all particulars when I return home, which I hope won’t be long, as I reckon it has lasted just long enough. Give my kindest regards to the Mrs. and the children and accept same yourself,

from your old friend  JACK ALICK 

The letter was probably written on his behalf as Jack Alick signed his 1902 Attestation with ‘his mark’. The fact someone took the trouble to write it for him as well as the letter’s contents indicates that Jack Alick’s experience with his fellow soldiers was a positive one. It also shows he was beginning to tire of war. However this did not affect his willingness to serve again and he joined 1 Battalion of the Australian Commonwealth Horse on 20 January 1902 (service number no. 356). This second foray into the South African war was of much shorter duration. The Commonwealth Horse left Sydney on 17 February and returned to Australia on 11 August 1902. It’s main duties had been to clear the district north of Klerksdorp. Peace was declared on 31 May 1902.


Attestation of John Allick 1902. NAA:B4418, ALICK JJ.

Jack Alick’s Braidwood community was supportive of him and his colleagues and the local paper recorded his leaving and his first return, when a welcoming reception was held by the mayor of Braidwood. For some reason there seem to be no reports relating to his service with the Australian Commonwealth Horse or of his second return – one possible reason being the change in the mood in relation to the war in some quarters following the discovery of the mistreatment of Boer civilians.

P L Murray who documented the names and a little of the events surrounding Australia’s part in the Boer War differentiated between the trained militia and the untrained volunteers whom he called ‘much rougher material’ and noted that

Many of the recruits, however – a large majority in some cases – were mere rough bushmen, countrymen, handicraftsmen, farm labourers, and the like, who had never soldiered before, and had everything to learn in the way of drill and discipline.  

in this pre-empting some of the later comments by Charles Bean on the composition of the AIF.

Jack Alick Bond fell into the bush labour force category described by Murray. As well as being a tracker and skilled horseman he was a farm labourer from the country bordering the Shoalhaven river west of the town of Braidwood, overshadowed by an extension of the Great Dividing Range, the Gourock Range also known as the Jingera mountains. His family frequented Mt Elrington, Ballalaba, Krawarree (sometimes spelled Crowarrie and Quarry in service records), Jembaicumbene, Major’s Creek and the Araluen valley and belonged to the Jincro ‘tribe’ of the Walbanja Yuin. He and his father, Alick (Jack) Bond were possibly related to another, older Jack Bond who collected blankets (distributed by the New South Wales Government) at Mt Elrington in 1838 and 1841. This man was named variously Mundula and Mundalie and was recorded as a being a chief or king by the Braidwood community which presented him and his wife with a ‘silver shield’ inscribed.

JOHN BOND, King of Major’s Creek, and KITTY BOND His Queen. Presented to him by his White Subjects.(Braidwood Dispatch and Mining Journal  4 November 1927 p, 2).

This status may have derived from within his group and but could also have come from the perception of his importance by the local white community which he served as a police tracker or it could have been a combination of both. On her death in 1881 his wife Kitty was referred to as ‘an old Aboriginal, queen the wife of Mr. Jackey Bond, now a trooper in her Majesty’s service.’ It was reported that more than 100 people attended her funeral.

Jack Alick Bond’s father, Alick also sometimes called Jack was the husband of Ellen or Helen De Mestre, a woman of French and Aboriginal heritage. In addition to Jack Alick Bond they had three sons Andy, Joseph and William.


william bond SRNSW gaol photo

William Bond 1893. He was born at Jembaicumbene according to information with this photograph but in 1917 gave his birth place as Ballalaba when he volunteered for the AIF.  State Records of New South Wales NRS2138 [11/1739]

Andy and William volunteered for World War One, only Andy serving overseas where he was gassed in France and invalided home in 1918. William’s attestation contains the information that he too was a police tracker.

ANDY BOND post ww1 in Wallaga Lake gum leaf band wering army jacket Andy Bond wears his former AIF jacket in this post war photo of the Wallaga Lake Gumleaf Band. Courtesy David Huggonson

Like some other Boer war veterans Jack Alick also volunteered for the AIF putting his age down by six years. His application made in September 1918 was unsuccessful although there is no indication of why. One factor could have been the imminent end of the war.Jack Alick WW1 attestation NAA MT1486 1 Page one of Jack Alick’s World War One attestation 1918.  His place of birth written for him as ‘Quarry’ is actually Krawarree and his occupation written as ‘trapper’ is likely to be ‘tracker’. NAA: MT 1486/1, Alick /Jack.

While there was a movement of Aboriginal people away from Braidwood from the late 19th century, Jack’s attestation shows that he and his brother Joseph were still in the Braidwood area in the early part of the 20th century. Andy’s service record records his move to Wallaga Lake, Tilba Tilba, South Coast by 1916 and also that of his mother. Jack Alick volunteered from Braidwood for South Africa in 1899 and in 1902. He was recorded by the Aborigines Protection Board at Wallaga Lake mission in 1916 and at Kent Farm Tilba Tilba in his 1918 application to join the AIF. Although Jack Alick/John Bond was probably still living at Wallaga Lake and at Bega, South Coast as late as 1936 and 1937 when his name appears on electoral rolls, by the time of his death in 1941, run over by a tram, he was living at La Perouse, Sydney probably at the La Perouse War Veterans home.

A notice inserted in the press on 7 November 1941 showed that he had not let go of his Boer war service. In this the South African Soldiers Association requested its members to attend his funeral – an indication that Jack Alick was probably a member or at least known by the membership.

. Jack Alick funeral notices 1941

Jack Alick had no known children but there are many Bond descendants and descendants of his mother Ellen De Mestre from her subsequent marriage to James Ahoy, some still living on the New South Wales South Coast and in the Wallaga Lake area. Genealogies and research on the De Mestre family website and the autobiography The Calling of the Spirits by Eileen Morgan, a granddaughter of Ellen De Mestre and James Ahoy, contain useful information about the Bond and related families, including in the latter case a photograph of Andy Bond being presented with his World War One service medals. Michael Smithson’s detailed study Munkata Yuin, drawn on here, is also an important source of information about the Bonds and the Braidwood Aboriginal community.

Despite all this, there seems to be no surviving knowledge of Jack Alick’s Boer war service. The discovery of this by Peter Bakker and the research he has undertaken make an invaluable contribution to both the history of Aboriginal involvement in the Boer war – and to the story of the Bond family. Peter’s research is ongoing. Anyone wanting to contact him with information can do so at

Philippa Scarlett  22 April 2014 (revised May 2016)

Particular thanks to Michael Smithson author of Munkata Yuin for his informed comments




Posted in BOER WAR, WW1 | 15 Comments


Arthur Quong Tart wounded at Pozieres courtesy Lois McEvoy

Arthur Malcolm Quong Tart, Brisbane, 1917. Courtesy Lois McEvoy

The public image of the men of the first AIF given currency by Charles Bean, the editor of the Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 and author of some of its volumes, was one of bushmen – white men – from rural Australia, like those he had met when he wrote the series of articles published in book form in 1910 as On the Wool Track. In this he spoke of ‘these large-hearted, intelligent, simple men of the Far West – the best material in Australia, the truest mates in the world’. Translated into the AIF they were mates of British origin fighting for King and country – and also for a white Australia. Bean saw Australia as an Anglo Saxon country and wrote approvingly of the ‘White Australia’ policy. Introducing the AIF in Volume 1 of the Official History he wrote

The Australian was half a soldier before the war; indeed throughout the war, in the hottest fights on Gallipoli and in the bitterest trials of France or Palestine, the Australian soldier differed very little from the Australian who at home rides the station boundaries every week-day and sits of a Sunday round the stockyard fence (p.47).

On the Wool Track does mention ‘natives’, ‘blacks’, ‘black fellows’ and Chinese but not as part of the bush work force whose qualities Bean saw as so formative of the Anzac legend.

In reality many of the men in the AIF came not from the bush but from the cities and urban areas. Moreover not all were white. As well as men of Aboriginal heritage there were men of other ethnicities. Amongst these were men of Chinese heritage. While Chinese have been part of the Australian story since the early days of the colony of New South Wales, their presence was boosted in the 1850s by the influx of thousands of Chinese following the discovery of gold in South Eastern Australia. By 1914 their descendants and those of later Chinese immigrants were amongst those who volunteered for the AIF. In doing so they were faced with the same enlistment problems encountered by Aboriginal men, stemming from Australia’s restrictive race based legislation and their acceptance or rejection followed similar patterns – and was just as inconsistent. This is apparent from the service records of AIF volunteers of Chinese descent which closely parallel those of Indigenous Australians – often recording initial rejection because of race followed later by acceptance or in other cases simply rejection.

One of those who did not succeed in joining the AIF was George Kong Meng born in Victoria, the son of a Chinese British citizen from Penang and a mother born in Tasmania. His brother Herbert was able to enlist in 1914 and was already overseas when Kong Meng was rejected twice for lack of substantial European descent. The experience of his second rejection in January 1916 is recorded in a letter of protest he wrote to the Melbourne Argus.

I attended the recruiting depot at the Melbourne Town Hall on Friday, the 14th inst. and after giving my name, age, and religion to the recruiting sergeant was taken in with some others to the examining room and told to undress, preparatory to the officer examining me as to my physical fitness. After my height, weight, and chest measurement had been taken by one the officials there I was sent to the medical officer. Upon going before him I was told to get dressed again, and when I asked if I had failed to pass the medical officer he said he would not swear me in. When leaving the depot I received a certificate with “not substantially of European origin” written on it, and signed by the medical officer. 

George Kong Meng was a British subject and an Australian citizen by birth who had already spent six years military service in the Victorian Mounted Rifles and the 8th Light Horse. His rejection for service in the AIF left him embittered, diminished and disillusioned with his country:

Evidently the authorities at the Melbourne Town Hall depot seem to think I am not worthy of helping to defend the Empire. The Prime Minister has appealed to every man of a military age to join the colors; but, if this is the treatment the native-born are to receive, I am afraid the appeal will fall on deaf ears. England and France deem it fit to use coloured troops to defend their shores, but the great Australian democracy denies its own-subjects the same opportunities. I might state that I have gone to Melbourne on two occasions to offer my services to my King and country, and, after paying all travelling expenses, to be treated like this does not give one any encouragement to go again.

Kong Meng’s words are equally applicable to the Aboriginal men who shared similar experiences. Aboriginal Australians were ‘natural born British subjects’ and required to attest to this when applying to join the AIF.

When Kong Meng complained in the press of his exclusion a correspondent replied pointing out that another Australian Chinese man, Arthur Quong Tart with ‘origin … about the same’ had recently embarked for the front. Both Tart and Kong Meng , whose father was Lowe Kong Meng of Melbourne, were the sons of well known and respected Chinese businessmen. Tart’s father, Mei Quong Tart, a naturalised Australian, was born in China and his mother was an Englishwoman, Margaret Scarlett.

Arthur Quong Tart although accepted for service in the AIF was no stranger to  discrimination. He had experienced racial taunts as a school child and at an official level when visiting New Zealand in 1910 he was detained because of his race by Customs officials. He was only released when it ‘was shown that Mr Tart was a half caste’ and not subject to the New Zealand Immigration Restriction Act.

Arthur Tart also experienced rejection before he was finally accepted for the AIF in August 1915 aged 23 but this rejection was, ostensibly at least, not because of his race but his height.

Pte. Arthur Quong Tart of the 7th Reinforcements of the 19th Battalion is the eldest son of Mrs and the late Mr. Quong Tart, of ‘Gallop House,’ Arthur-street, Ashfield. Prior to enlisting he was engaged in wool classing and wool buying, having gained his experience In New Zealand, Queensland, and New South Wales, He has been educated at Petersham Public School, Ashfield College, and Burwood Grammar School, and finished his studies at Riverview College. Private Quong Tart made [several?] attempts to enlist, but was not successful in joining the ranks until the height standard was reduced to 5ft 2in.  

His service however did not last long and by February 1917 he was back in Australia.

Pte. Arthur Tart, the talented young soldier at present convalescing at the Booloominbah Home, Armidale, is the son of the late Mr. Quong Tart, the well known Sydney business man. Pte. Tart was blown 20ft into the air in France by a shell, and is now making good progress from the severe shock he received.

He had been buried four times by exploding shells at Pozieres between 22 and 26 July 1916 and was left temporarily without power in his legs, hysteria, a stutter and later a limp and not surprisingly suffered from shellshock. His mother died on 27 July 1916 only a day after Arthur was being assaulted by shell fire at Pozieres.  Grief on eventually learning of her death contributed to ongoing trauma on his return home intensified by the accidental death of one of his sisters the day after his arrival in Sydney. After recuperation he went to Queensland where he attempted to resume his pre-war career as a wool classer but was plagued by depression. Photographs he sent to his family, taken in Queensland after his return, show him in uniform, a diminutive figure who stands legs apart as he appears to steady himself with a cane. The stripes on his uniform do not correlate with his service and indicate that the uniform was borrowed for the photograph but that it was important to him to be seen to be wearing it – perhaps because of his early return home. A literary work he registered for copyright in 1925 gave his Ashfield, New South Wales address – no doubt used as his principal address when away. It also shows that he was in Sydney in 1925 when he applied for registration. The work itself titled The Living Dead is a story of murder and passion set in north west New South Wales, Queensland and South America with brief references to the war. Possibly writing it was one way of exorcising some of the demons which his war time experiences summoned up for him.

In later years information about Arthur’s life was lost by his family and it was only relatively recently that Lois McEvoy wife of his nephew John McEvoy and his first cousin once removed James Errol Lea-Scarlett, were able to locate a record of his death. He died in Brisbane in May 1927 just ten years after his return from the war. He was unmarried and it is reasonable to assume that like so many others his life and expectations were blighted by his horrendous war time experiences.

Arthur Quong Tart as a wool classer and buyer in country New South Wales and Queensland lived in the bush environment and communities described so vividly by Bean in On the Wool Track and himself belonged to one of the range of bush workers Bean features in his observations. But Bean had no place for men like Arthur Tart or for the Aboriginal men who also inhabited and worked in this environment. Although these men were part of the world Bean saw as the wellspring of the behaviours of Australian men at Gallipoli and beyond, they were not for Bean and writers who followed him, amongst those who were the cornerstones of the legend called Anzac.

Some men of Chinese heritage, or who according to their attestations were born in China, successfully enlisted in the AIF even though they lacked the European descent required by the Defence Act. Yet others, despite the fact that recruits were urgently needed as the war progressed, could not gain acceptance, their rejection showing that the urgency for recruits was not always sufficient to overcome the negatives which led to the strict adherence to the provisions of the Defence Act.

The digitisation of the records of World War One service by the National Archives of Australia and their availability online have facilitated research into the diversity of the AIF. More information about Chinese in the AIF can be found in Alastair Kennedy’s 2013 study  Chinese Anzacs.

Philippa Scarlett 6 April 2014 

My thanks to Lois McEvoy for permission to reproduce the photograph of Arthur Quong Tart and for her comments on his life.  

Posted in Other non white Australians and the AIF, WW1 | Leave a comment


David Huggonson has been at the forefront of the movement for recognition of Aboriginal war service. Not only is he the author of numerous articles both journal and press which tell the story of Aboriginal men in the AIF but his efforts to locate photographs of Aboriginal servicemen, involving contacts all over Australia, led to the creation of a unique record of Aboriginal war service. The photographs collected by him and made available to the public in the exhibition Too Dark for the Light Horse toured Eastern Australia between 1986 and 1995 and were later shared with the Australian War Memorial. Now the phrase ‘Too dark for the Light Horse’ taken by Huggonson from a Bulletin cartoon (31 August 1916) is synonymous with Aboriginal service in World War One. The images in the Huggonson Collection of Aboriginal men in the uniform of the AIF send a powerful visual message about the Aboriginal presence in this conflict. Most recently he has sought to identify men of Aboriginal heritage who fought at Gallipoli. The thirty two men he has identified to date are listed below. They are from all Australian states and not all survived. On Anzac day 2014 the name of another man ( see Comments below) has been added to this list bringing the number  to thirty three.

 Some Men of Aboriginal Descent Who Served at Gallipoli

Compiler David Huggonson 2014 

BINDOFF, Edgar George 1720, Sydney, New South Wales

BOLTON, Arthur John (served as Lee, Arthur John) 1040, Rooty Hill, New South Wales

BOLTON, Alfred Frederick 682, Windsor, New South Wales

CAMERON, Alfred 1173, Meningie, South Australia

CROUGH, Kenneth 1125, Warrnambool, Victoria

DICKERSON, James 392, Gin Gin, Western Australia

FARMER, Larry 62, Katanning, Western Australia

FARMER, Lewis 421, Katanning, Western Australia

FIRTH, Francis Walter 1162, Pilliga, New South Wales

HEARPS, Alfred John, [409] 2nd Lieutenant, Forth, Tasmania

HUTCHINS, Charles 307, Busselton, Western Australia

JACKSON, William John 1952, Bunbury, Western Australia

KARPANY, George 3502, East Wellington, South Australia

KELLY, Alfred William 590, Macksville, New South Wales

MARTIN, Richard, 1359, Brisbane, Queensland

MAYNARD, Edward 2294, Flinders Island, Tasmania

MAYNARD, Frank 1153, Flinders Island, Tasmania

MAYNARD, Leo 3992, Flinders Island, Tasmania

MCCALLUM, Arthur Edward 165, Albury, Western Australia

MILLER, John William 1227, Peppermint Bay, Tasmania

MUCKRAY, Hurtle 757, East Wellington, South Australia

NALEY, Charles Gordon 1310, Eucla, Western Australia

OLSEN, Andrew 736, Toowong, Queensland

PATTERSON, Hurtle Austin 34, Townsville, Queensland

PERFECT, Joseph 200, Rockhampton, Queensland

PRIESTLY, Norman 2786, Gordonbrook Station, New South Wales

ROBINS, Alfred Arthur 1426, Junee, New South Wales

ROWAN, John 1506, Healesville, Victoria

SLOANE, John 783, Forbes, New South Wales

STOW, Albert Edward, 2162, Dungog, New South Wales

TRIPP, Hubert Frank 1428, Victor Harbour, South Australia

WALKER, Arthur Thomas 2466, Wallaroo, South Australia

WALLER, Charles Stephen 1337, Kangaroo Island, South Australia

To date this is the only public list of Aboriginal men who served at Gallipoli of which I am aware. It concretely links a group of Indigenous men with the World War One campaign which features most prominently in Australians’ war remembrance. It is very likely incomplete and the names of more servicemen can be added as they come to light.

Philippa Scarlett 29 March 2014 

My thanks to David Huggonson for permission to reproduce his list. Some of his publications can be found in the Australian War Memorial’s reading list of material related to Indigenous war service.

Posted in WW1 | 21 Comments


The play Black Diggers opened the Sydney Festival at the Sydney Opera House on 18 January 2014 and concluded with standing ovations. Individual reports and reviews also attest to its success. It consists of a series of stories crafted to portray the  range of experiences of Indigenous men in World War One and in the post war period. The writer is Tim Wright and the director Wesley Enoch with a cast of Aboriginal actors playing a multitude of parts. I was unable to attend but look forward to catching up with it elsewhere in Australia.

The recognition which Black Diggers will generate in the wider community is long overdue – despite the efforts of individuals over the last four decades. Black Diggers follows in the tradition of David Huggonson’s Too Dark for the Light Horse, an exhibition of photographs of Indigenous World War One service men. The exhibition which showed Indigenous men in the uniform of the AIF, collected by Huggonson toured south eastern Australia and Queensland from 1988 before later being shared with the Australian War Memorial. The impact on the eye of the photographs has proved so much more compelling and immediate than the printed word. In the same way this production which presents Aboriginal  soldiers to audiences as flesh and blood, combining visual appeal with dialogue, will be invaluable in getting across the message that despite prohibitive legislation Indigenous men actually volunteered and served in World War One. The play will tour within Australia from September.

In the centenary year of World War One, as a visual and verbal presentation, Black Diggers will go a long way towards raising the general public’s awareness of the service of Indigenous men – both in World War One and following wars. This has been either neglected, ignored or buried by the racist Australia in which these men volunteered and which they returned to and their descendants continued to endure. Hopefully things are changing but there is still some way to go. Black Diggers is the most important milestone to date in the process of recognition and reconciliation with the men and their descendants. It is now recognised that the history of Australia is a shared one between black and white. Within this so is the history of the AIF and its sister services. Black Diggers eloquently makes this point.

Philippa Scarlett 29 January 2014

Meyne Wyatt, Isabella Edquist  and Wesley Enoch Black Diggers 18 Jan 2014

After the performance: Opening night 18 January, actor Meyne Wyatt, Isabella Edquist and director Wesley Enoch

Posted in Philippa Scarlett WW1 | 1 Comment


Warangesda etching 1883 Illustrated Sydney News

Warangesda Mission 1883

The following account is based on reports of the New South Wales Aborigines Protection Board and entries in the Warangesda Mission Managers Diary. The authors of both sources are white officials and the picture they paint is basically one of contrived good cheer. Never the less they do give some idea of the experience if not what the people at the mission actually felt. The life span of the mission was 1880 – 1924

Records of the Christmas season at Warangesda in the 1890′s show it to have been a busy period.

In the days before Christmas in preparation for the holiday to follow, the people were occupied cleaning up their yards and cottages.  The mission buggy went back and forth from Darlington Point Station, meeting children of the white staff coming home for the Christmas holiday and any other Christmas visitors, as well as picking up the Christmas parcels sent from Sydney which contained food and  toys for the children.  While the men went shooting for game for the Christmas table, the manager as well as attending to his usual duties spent time selecting prizes and planning the sports to be held on Boxing Day and New Year.

By Christmas eve, the church had been decorated with pine boughs and other greenery and a Christmas tree set up by the men. Christmas day was celebrated with church services, Christmas cards were given out and Christmas fare – roast beef and plum pudding (quality unknown) was distributed to the people.  The Christmas period was usually very hot, 108°F in 1892 and 114° in 1896.  In 1892 the awful heat was put to a sudden end in the evening by a southerly buster so severe that it forced the evening church service to be abandoned.10  The 1896 heat was unrelieved, causing the death of one child  – Julia’s baby – probably from heat exhaustion and dehydration.  That evening there was a terrible dust storm “and as the lamp in the church would not burn there was no service.”

Boxing Day was a day of organised sports at the river, but on Boxing Day 1894 many instead had attended the Darlington Point races and were considered unfit for the dancing Mr Nash (the school teacher) had arranged in the school that evening. On Boxing Day 1896 those who did not go to the races “partook of a tea which had been provided by the matron, consisting of fruit cakes, lollies and coconuts which were afterwards scrambled [for].”

The sports usually continued into the next day – 27 December and were followed in the evening by a concert and prize giving.  The next day, 28 December, could be taken up with a cricket match. In 1893 there then followed an exodus of the visitors from Cummeragunja mission who had spent some of the Christmas holiday at Warangesda, as well as Warangesda families leaving to pay a reciprocal visit.

In the last days of the year preparations were made for New Year’s Day and the men cleared ground by the river for the New Year’s Day picnic.  The New Year was welcomed in with “rough music” into the night, and on New Year’s Day, there were more sports by the river, followed by the usual prize giving ceremony on 2 January, so ending the festive season.

This is an extract from Warangesda Daily Life and Events 1994

Men from Warangesda or with Warangesda connections volunteered for World War One. James Smith, Walter Bright, Joe Gotch, Thomas Lyons, Tom and Dick McGuinness, Alex Little, Arthur Weston, Allan Gowans, David Kennedy and John Heland all volunteered for service with the first AIF as did John and Duncan Ferguson, two sons of William Ferguson. David Kennedy over 40 years old, John Heland and Duncan Ferguson did not serve overseas, Dick McGuinness lost his life. The others returned to Australia, in Walter Bright’s case after a period in a German prisoner of war camp. John Ferguson was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry.

Philippa Scarlett 30 December 2013

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On 15 October 2013 Russell Downey, a great nephew of Christopher and Charles Gage, placed a poppy beside their names on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial. In doing so he paused to wonder what these two men looked like. No photographs of them had been found to date. Amazingly, this changed only a few days later when on-going research by Russell’s wife Gayle, located a photograph of Charles Gage in the pages of the Forbes Advocate. A striking family similarity to Frederick Clinton Gage who served in World War Two (shown on a younger brother of Christopher and Charles, is immediately obvious. So this goes a long way towards granting Russell’s wish.

C A Gage Forbes Advocate

Both Christopher and Charles Gage are named in the survey of Aboriginal men who were ex-members of the AIF published in the RSSILA (now RSL) journal Reveille in 1932. They were the sons of Christopher and Mary Gage, nee Sloan of Eugowra, New South Wales. Charles volunteered for service in the first AIF on 11 March 1916 and Christopher on 4 April the same year. Both lost their lives. The shock of losing two sons led to the mental collapse of their father who never recovered from their deaths.

Charles Gage was killed on 3 December 1916 only days after arriving in France and transferring to the 56th Battalion.  His death was described in the Western Champion by a fellow soldier, Frank Reid.

They were marching into the firing line on the night of December 3rd, and when 100 yards off the trench shells were falling all around them. One burst and killed a number of men, among them Gage.

Frank Reid was also wounded by a shell burst which followed.

Christopher, who served with the 54th Battalion, outlived his brother by almost a year and died in 1917 in Belgium. The Forbes Advocate gave details of a letter to his parents written ‘somewhere in France’ on 20 March 1917, reporting that he was

in good health and ” In the thick of the fray.” His company was doing good work, notwithstanding that they were fighting against big odds and under trying and uncomfortable circumstances. Corporal Gage was bold enough to say that he did not think that the war would last much longer. Corporal Gage is a son of Mr and Mrs C.H. Gage, of “Pine Vale,” Eugowra, and a brother of Private Charles Gage, who was killed in action recently.

Following five more months of war on 24 August 1917, in a further letter to his father published by the Forbes Advocate, Christopher was not so optimistic. After giving news of some of the ‘Eugowra boys’ he concluded by saying ‘they had been having a good time lately, but did not think it would last long as “good things didn’t last long in France!” ’. By this time Gage had been on the Western Front all year, and experienced the death of his brother. One month later he himself was dead – killed in action on 26 October, the date of the 54th Battalion’s major battle at Polygon Wood.

The Gage brothers’ Aboriginality was located in the Wiradjuri of the Lachlan river via their mother Mary Sloan, whose Sloan family is recorded as in receipt of an individual reserve near Eugowra. Unlike some other Indigenous volunteers, the Gage brothers did not grow up on a managed Aboriginal station like Warangesda or Erambie or live in a reserve community. The newspaper reports relating to their war service make no reference to Aboriginality and give no indication that their family – Eugowra farmers – were not accepted in the community. Moreover, while technically under the control of the Aborigines Protection Board and noted by the Board in the information given for the Reveille article, practically this was not so. Their case is not isolated and just one example of the fact that a great variety of backgrounds are shared by men of Indigenous heritage who volunteered for the AIF. These range from mission to farm, urban to country town and outback station and more. This information can be found in the service records of these men which are digitised and available online at the National Archives of Australia. The names of identified Indigenous volunteers are listed in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Volunteers for the AIF:  the Indigenous Response to World War One.

My thanks to family historian Gayle Downey for telling me of her discovery of the photograph of Charles Gage.

Philippa Scarlett 7 November 2013

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During World War One 3141 Canadian nurses served overseas and on the home front. Included in this number was Marion Smith. What distinguishes her from other nurses was her particular Australian connection. Although resident in Canada since childhood she was born in Liverpool, New South Wales, Australia in 1891. Marion’s grandmother, Lucy Leane belonged to the Cabrogal (Liverpool) clan of the Darug.  In 1893 two years after Marion was born Lucy Leane  petitioned the New South Wales Aborigines Protection Board describing herself as

The only surviving Native Woman of the Georges River and Liverpool District, residing here ever since her birth Fifty Three Years ago, as the undersigned witnesses can vouch for and attest. Being a bona fide Original Native of Australia & of this District, your Petitioner requests of you the supply of a boat as granted by Government in all such cases, for the purposed of carrying on trade on the Georges River.  Sydney Morning Herald 9 June 1893  

Lucy Leane’s daughter Elizabeth, Marion’s mother was also born in Liverpool. After marrying an English cousin George Smith and Marion’s birth, Elizabeth and her husband moved to Canada.

Marion Smith trained as a nurse at New England Hospital, Rosebury, Massachusetts USA and after graduating in 1913 joined the Victoria Order of Nurses in Montreal. On 7 March 1917 she volunteered for World War One and became a staff nurse with Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service. She sailed soon after for England to begin active service and embarked for France on 30 March 1917, joining No. 41 Ambulance Train on 9 December 1917. She served in France until 1 September 1918 then Italy with the [British] Italian Expeditionary Force.  Her service record shows that during her war service she became known as Marion Leane Smith.

Ambulance Train. France WW1

A ward on a British Ambulance Train  in France

Ambulance trains like No 41 were specially fitted trains which were used in France and Belgium to transport injured soldiers from casualty clearing stations to base hospitals. Some included theatres for emergency operations. Patients were crammed into triple layered bunks either side of a narrow aisle. This combined with the movement of the train, the over all cramped nature of the converted carriages and lighting issues made for very difficult conditions for both the patients and the medical staff attending to them. One nurse described difficulties associated with the movement of patients onto an ambulance train at a clearing station in France:

Patients lying everywhere in the grounds of the clearing station, the walking wounded were in hundreds and were fighting to get on the train, they had to be kept back by a Guard to enable the bearers to get the more serious cases on the train.

Sister Leila Smith, No. 15 Ambulance Train

Such conditions would have tested Marion’s skills and nerve but her service record shows she more than adequately met this challenge. Comments in her record state that she was ‘a very good surgical nurse most attentive to patients.’   Another report of 2 August 1918 says more.

Staff Nurse Smith has given complete satisfaction in the carrying out of her duties whilst on the train. Her work is both quickly and efficiently done. She is most capable in every way. Power of administration satisfactory as also tact and ability to train others. 

Although her contract expired on 7 September 1918 she sought an extension and moved to the University War Hospital Southampton on 5 October 1918. She remained there until 4 May 1919 when she returned to Canada. Here she resumed life with her family at Home Farm New Brunswick but later married Victor Walls. He also had served in WW1 and some speculate that the two first met during the war years.

The couple subsequently left Canada for Trinidad where they took up positions at a missionary school, Naparima College. Victor went on to become Head Master and Marion supervised extra curricular activities at the boarding house. The Naparima school hymn which is still sung was written by Marion.

Marion maintained her connection with the Red Cross and was responsible for bringing the Red Cross to Trinidad. She also served in World War Two in Trinidad where she was commandant of the Red Cross and awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

Her trajectory from her Indigenous ancestral lands at Liverpool New South Wales eventually to Trinidad and the responsibilities she undertook there (and before) was an amazing testament to her own abilities and strength and no doubt also to the spirit inherited from her grandmother, petitioner Lucy Leane, ‘bona fide Original Native of Australia’.  In addition to Marion, three other descendants of Lucy Leane served in World War One. Marion’s cousin Albert Edmund Leane known as ‘Darkie’, his brother  William Arthur Leane and her uncle Albert Charles Leane all served in France with the AIF. Another uncle Edmund William Leane volunteered in 1918 at the age of 43 but was unsuccessful. However of the descendants of Lucy Leane, Marion Leane Smith is unique in that she is so far the only woman of Australian Aboriginal heritage who is known to have served in World War One.

Although Australian, Marion Smith’s training was overseas and her service not with the army of her own country. The questions remains would she have had the opportunity to acquire nursing skills if she had not left Australia and, given the lack of uniformity in acceptance of men of Indigenous heritage into the Australian army, would she have gained acceptance as a nurse in the AIF.

My thanks again to Marion’s niece Judy Joyce for telling me that Marion had served in World War One enabling me to seek further information from the National Archives UK and also for directing me to information about her time in Canada and Trinidad.

 Philippa Scarlett 30 October 2013

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One of the Aboriginal children placed in Governor Macquarie’s Native Institution in 1814 was Kitty of the Warmuli or Prospect clan of the Darug. After leaving the Native Institution Kitty married, first Coleby, brother of Maria Lock and then convict Joseph Budsworth and moved to the Maitland area of NSW.

By 2012 I had identified four of Kitty’s descendants as serving in World War One, using a combination of Jim Kohen’s Darug genealogies, National Archives and New South Wales Birth, Death and Marriage records and information from Budsworth descendant Jo Rose. Now with more assistance from Jess Holland and Liz Locke, I have been put in touch with Leigh Budden whose grandfather, born a Budsworth, is yet another of Kitty’s descendants to serve in the AIF. He was Robert John Coleman (also known as Walter) born Robert John Budsworth in 1896 and legitimised by John Joacquim Coleman as his son in 1913. His mother Catherine Sarah Budsworth, granddaughter of Kitty, married John Coleman in 1898. Robert volunteered aged 19 on 18 July 1915 and served as Walter John Coleman in the Middle East and France. Catherine Sarah was the daughter of James Bowen Budsworth and the sister of Roderick Budsworth, killed in France on 5 November 1916. Another brother, James Henry Budsworth survived the war as did and two other Budsworths, Wilfred and Joseph, both of whom were cousins of Walter Coleman.

COLEMAN nee Budsworth Wal (Robert John) & Nellie wedding 1_5_1930 courtesy Leigh Budden

Wal Coleman and his second wife Nellie, 1930.

Courtesy Leigh and Joan Budden

I have mentioned boomerangs before in connection with men of the AIF. Walter Coleman also possessed a boomerang (see below) similar in make and material to the one owned by Bert Leane .The precise circumstances of his receipt of this object are unknown but its present owner, his daughter Joan Budden, says that it was a gift from one of his uncles. Although this boomerang may not necessarily have any connection with Walter Coleman’s Aboriginal heritage, it is of interest in the context of war service overseas in general and the use of boomerangs to symbolise safe return. Walter Coleman’s boomerang is asymmetrical and roughly similar to the one belonging to Bert Leane. The dark wood with yellow banding suggests both were made from mulga.

Wal Coleman's boomerang courtesy Leigh Budden

The boomerang belonging to Wal Coleman, a gift from his uncles.

Courtesy Leigh and Joan Budden

Family research by Leigh Budden has revealed another parallel with Bert Leane, known to his AIF friends as ‘Darkie’. He points out that Robert Budsworth was known not only as Walter John, Wal and Wally but also as Darkie Coleman. He also states that according to his mother’s cousin Ray Coleman, his grandfather was nicknamed ‘Nigger’ by many of his friends including some of his family. This was not meant as an insult but a (perverse) term of endearment. A post card sent to his brothers Frank and Bob from Wareham U.K. where Walter was stationed in March 1917 (while assigned to the later disbanded 61st Battalion) demonstrates the affection between the brothers.

Wal COLEMAN sent this Post Card from Wareham UK WWIWal COLEMAN sent this Post Card from Wareham UK WWI  (2)

Card sent to his brothers by Wal Coleman. His realistic appraisal of the uncertainties of his life as a soldier is evident when he writes –  ‘if I get home’.

Courtesy Leigh and Joan Budden

The use of the word ‘nigger’ underlines the ever present casual discrimination faced by men of Aboriginal heritage. However the mateship he enjoyed (like Bert Leane), was implicit on his death in 1944, in the notice placed by the 30th Battalion AIF Association in the Newcastle Herald.

Budsworth Walter John Coleman 1944 death notice 001 crop

The discovery of Walter Coleman is another example of the fact that there are more men of Indigenous heritage to be recognised as volunteering for the first AIF. The Darug people of New South Wales are particularly well documented thanks in great part to the research and personal interaction with families of Jim Kohen. This in turn has assisted in the identification of war service by Darug men. Now the addition of Walter Coleman, yet to be included in Darug genealogies, brings to at least 72 the number of Indigenous servicemen with links to the Aboriginal people of the Sydney basin.

My thanks to Leigh Budden and his mother Joan Budden for family information and photographs

Philippa Scarlett 29 October 2013

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Albert Edmund Leane enlisted in the AIF in January 1916 under the name Albert Edward Leane. He gave his age as 18 and became a member of No 4 Tunnelling Company. The Company left Sydney on 22 May but Leane subsequently disembarked at Freemantle. He enlisted a second time in June 1916. Although still under age, his second enlistment included a letter of permission from his father. In fact according to his family he was still younger than 19, the age stated on his second attestation. He served with the 2nd Pioneer Battalion on the Somme where he was twice wounded.

Amongst his possessions, now held by family members is a boomerang given to him in connection with his war service. It is inscribed 5 Platoon 149 GST Company AIF. Also inscribed on the boomerang are approximately twenty signatures but these are proving hard to decipher. There is no record of his serving in World War Two however 149 GST (General Transport) Company was a World War Two unit. The exact circumstances of his receipt of the boomerang are unknown and still being researched and efforts are under way to identify the signatures.  Boomerangs were a recurring motif during both wars and used on official and unofficial badges, colour patches, brooches, ornaments and correspondence. The boomerang was a powerful symbol of return and of a continuing link between individuals. Associated with boomerang images were messages like Hurl this Boomerang Across the Sea. Hoping You will come back to Me and the inscription on the boomerang given to Captain Carmichael, responsible for the recruiting drive for the 36th Battalion AIF, which says ‘Thynulungatha’ translated as ‘come back here’

Albert Edmund Leane's Boomerang (2) 3

Albert Edmund Leane's Boomerang close up (2) 3 bw contrast version

Albert Edmund Leane’s boomerang. Courtesy Judy Joyce

What is significant about the possession of this boomerang by Albert Leane is that he was known as ‘Darkie’ by his AIF friends and that the boomerang given to him can be seen as referencing his Aboriginality. Albert Leane was of Indigenous heritage – a  Darug man of the Sydney area.  In 1893 only a few years before his birth, his grandmother Lucy Leane of the Cabrogal (Liverpool) clan of the Darug petitioned the New South Wales Aborigines Protection Board describing herself as

the only surviving Native Woman of the Georges River and Liverpool District, residing here ever since her birth Fifty Three Years ago, as the undersigned witnesses can vouch for and attest. Being a bona fide Original Native of Australia & of this District, your Petitioner requests of you the supply of a boat as granted by Government in all such cases, for the purposed of carrying on trade on the Georges River The Sydney Morning Herald 9 June 1893.


Lucy Leane’s Petition  Courtesy Judy Joyce

Her petition was unsuccessful and she died two years later. Nevertheless her son Albert Charles and grandsons Albert Edmund and William Arthur served in World War One and two great grandsons Leslie and Sydney served in World War Two. Albert Charles, 55th Battalion was badly wounded and captured by the Germans at Armentieres, France on 20 July 1916. Edmund William Leane yet another son Of Lucy volunteered unsuccessfully in 1918.

On 14 March 1931 Albert Edmund Leane placed an advertisement in Smiths Weekly, known as ‘the diggers paper’, couched in that mixture of euphemism and understatement characteristic of the way digger humour made light of the harsh realities of war. The request contained in this advertisement was testimony to Leane’s desire to maintain links with those he served with during World War One:

Bert ‘Darkie’ Leane 2nd pioneer Battn. wonders how many of the boys of C Company are still able to sit up and read Smith’s and how many of No 1 Section who shared an issue of 5.9 on the night of July 4 1918 together with himself, Phil Dynes, “Chopper” Alderman, Corp Sullivan, Vic Carrington, Dave Wright, “Curley” Howell and others still have votes. After 12 years he would be grateful to hear any news of them or from relatives.

The issue of 5.9 he mentions is a reference to the bombardment by German 5.9 artillery shells. The date 4 July 1918 was a momentous one for Leane and others in his section and the last day of his active war service. The wounds he received in action on the evening of 4 July resulted eventually in his being invalided to Australia. His own entry in a very sparse diary kept during the war years reads

Wounded on the left at Villers Bret about 10 pm Carried out by four Americans. Arrived at Casualty Clearing Stations.

The other friends in C Company mentioned in Leane’s letter were either killed or wounded on the evening of 4 July or the early hours of the next day. The war diary of the 2nd Pioneers for 4 July, headed ‘Somme’ states injuries to C Company were two killed and one officer and thirteen others wounded. A letter from one of the latter, Dave Wright, contained six pages of comment on the fateful day in July 1918 and news of friends.

Dear Darkie,
Just a line to let you know I have just drunk your health … Well I was pleased to see your note in Smith’s and you can guess I was pleased to hear from you after considering how you got on, as I never saw you after you were knocked.
The last I heard of you was from some yanks at a dressing station you had gone through ahead of me. I took Vic Carrington out also had Stasbourg the sergeant with me but I didn’t see them again … Vic Carrington though I carried him out that night saved me … it was through Vic singing out ‘Chopper Chopper’ that stopped me running … Well Darkie it makes a man feel years younger  when he looks at those names. Phil Dynes he said to me in the afternoon it would be alright if a man knew what his future would be and a few hours after he was killed … I have just thought of Curley Howell when I was going down the road with Vic hanging on my back Curley passed me going ‘hell for leather’. I called out to him are you hit Curley. Yes he said.

Albert Edmund Leane

Albert Edmund Leane Courtesy Judy Joyce

Bert ‘Darkie’ Leane emerges as a thoughtful man affected by his wartime experiences and one who developed and later sought to revive the bonds commonly referred to as ‘mateship’ with those he served. His skin colour was acknowledged but if those who called him ‘Darkie’ connected this with Aboriginality, it is obvious from Bert’s query in Smith’s and Dave Wright’s reply, that his complexion and its implications were not an issue.

Men from the Leane family were not the only descendants of Lucy Leane to serve in World War One. Lucy’s granddaughter Marion Smith moved with her family to Canada as a child and later married a Canadian, Victor Walls. She trained as a nurse at New England Hospital, Boston USA qualifying in 1913 and in 1917 volunteered for service in World War One, serving with the Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve) in France, Belgium and Italy. After the war she was responsible for the introduction of the Canadian Red Cross to Trinidad where she and her husband were teachers at a missionary college. During World War Two she was Trinidad’s Red Cross commandant and awarded the Distinguished War Service Medal. She is to date the only identified woman of Australian Indigenous heritage who served in World War One. There will be more on Marion Smith in a later post.

Writing runs through the Leane story from Lucy’s petition to the works of Marion and her cousin Albert ‘Darkie’ Leane. As well as his World War One letters and diary, in 1952 Albert registered copyright for a literary work – a poem to his wife entitled Here in a Cottage Garden. Marion was the author of the school hymn, still used at the missionary college where she taught and compiled a book which gave guidance on elementary home nursing in the tropics.

Lucy Leane’s request to the Aborigines Protection Board has parallels with the actions of Yuin Aboriginal woman Coomee Nullunga or Maria of Milton, New South Wales (born c 1833) who in the latter part of her life demanded payment from local white families on the birth of a child, seemingly in recognition of her prior ownership of the land. It also has overtones of the actions of fellow Darug woman Maria Lock who in 1831 petitioned Governor Darling for her deceased brother Coley or Colebee’s land grant at Blacktown. The actions of these three Aboriginal women demonstrate strength and spirit and a sense of entitlement derived from their Indigeneity.

The Leane family record shows a strong streak of creativity, individualism, strength of character and willingness to serve in different and difficult capacities. Their history is all the more remarkable considering the history of dispossession, disadvantage and discrimination which is inseparable from their Aboriginal heritage.

My thanks to Judy Joyce niece of Albert Edmund Leane for her comment, access to family papers and family information. Judy points out that Albert’s boomerang is a ‘killer’ boomerang and not the returning kind. However in general the symbolism of the boomerang in the public mind remains.

Philippa Scarlett 30 August 2013

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