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3 Indigenous Children’s Books for Anzac Day

Tomorrow is ANZAC Day, an ANZAC Day that will be observed in an entirely different way around the Nation than is normal due to COVID19.  However observe it we shall as we commemorate our fallen, returned and current Service men and women, remembering their sacrifices past and present. Included in their number are thousands of our First Peoples. Did you know that:

  • At least 50 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people served in the Boer War (1899-1902)
  • Over 1000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people served in World War I (1914-1918) and around 70 fought at Gallipoli
  • At least 3000 Aboriginal and 850 Torres Strait Islander people served in World War II (1939-1945)
  • In both World Wars, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had the highest participation rates in the military as a proportion of their population in Australia
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have participated in all military conflicts since the World Wars, including in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan and in peacekeeping operations including in Somalia and East Timor
  • In 2011 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 1.7% of the Australian Army.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have also been involved in work at home to support the war effort. For example, during World War II, entire Aboriginal communities in Northern Australia did defence work such as construction, farming and butchery for the army. (Credit: Deadly Story)


As is our custom we are sourcing and reading books as a ‘gateway’ to assist in understanding the many complex issues that arise from War and to understand the proud contribution of our First Peoples and the inequalities they faced upon return. Thus far I have only found three Indigenous Children’s Books for Anzac Day, so if you have more to share I’d love to hear!

Alfred’s War – Rachel Bin Salleh

Alfred’s War is a powerful story that unmasks the lack of recognition given to Australian Indigenous servicemen who returned from the WWI battlelines. Alfred was just a young man when he was injured and shipped home from France. Neither honoured as a returned soldier or offered government support afforded to non-Indigenous servicemen, Alfred took up a solitary life walking the back roads – billy tied to his swag, finding work where he could.
Alfred was a forgotten soldier. Although he had fought bravely in the Great War, as an Aboriginal man he wasn’t classed as a citizen of his own country. Yet Alfred always remembered his friends in the trenches and the mateship they had shared. Sometimes he could still hear the never-ending gunfire in his head and the whispers of diggers praying. Every year on ANZAC Day, Alfred walked to the nearest town, where he would quietly stand behind the people gathered and pay homage to his fallen mates.
Rachel Bin Salleh’s poignant narrative opens our hearts to the sacrifice and contribution that Indigenous people have made to Australia’s war efforts, the true extent of which is only now being revealed.

Dreaming Soldiers – Catherine Bauer

“Dreaming Soldiers” weaves tales of childhood adventures and battlefield challenges with gentle Dreaming themes.

This is a touching friendship story about Jimmy and Johnno, two young Australian boys in the 1900s; mates who do everything together, sharing adventures and growing up side by side in the dusty cattle yards of an Outback South Australian station and later on the muddy WWI battlefields of the Western Front.


Reg Saunders: An Indigenous War Hero – Hug Dolan

The little-known story of Reg Saunders, the first Indigenous Australian to become an officer in the Army. Reg Saunders MBE (1920-90) not only survived the World War II battlefields in the Middle East, North Africa, Greece, Crete and New Guinea, but excelled as a military leader. He was recommended for officer training and, in 1944, returned to New Guinea as a platoon commander – the first Aboriginal Australian to serve as a commissioned officer. What happened during the war to transform a determined young man from country Victoria into a war hero – one who would go on to serve with distinction in the Korean War, and become a pioneering figure for Indigenous rights. Graphic Novel for Teens

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