Indigenous Anzacs

Portrait of Douglas Grant in uniform.
Aboriginal serviceman Douglas Grant, 1914. NAA:AP1011/1, 2176/1

Overview

An estimated 1,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people served with the Australian Imperial Force in World War I. It is difficult to establish exact numbers as a person's ethnicity was not recorded at enlistment. The Defence Act 1909 prevented people 'not substantially of European origin or descent' from enlisting. During World War I, this law was to be enforced by medical officers but they did not always abide by the ruling, especially as the war continued and more troops were needed. In 1917, military orders allowed 'half-castes' to enlist if they had one parent of European origin.

Get thinking

  1. What challenges did Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face when enlisting in World War I?
  2. What was the experience of war for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?
  3. Was life different for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who returned from World War I?

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