Their stories – Defending Country
2014 has been a busy year for the Serving Our Country project team, which culminated with the conference 'Defending Country: Sharing stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service' at The Australian National University, 1-3 December. The conference brought together a large group of Indigenous veterans, defence personnel and some family members to share their defence service stories. Also in attendance were the project researchers, community organisations and representatives from our partner organisations. The three-day conference was structured into thematic panels which included Commemoration and Remembrance, Citizenship and Activism, and Social Justice issues, to name a few. Conference activities also included a reception at Duntroon House, hosted by the Chief of Army, and a special guided tour of the Australian War Memorial (AWM) where two of the conference delegates were able to lay a wreath at the last post service.
Our project team received positive feedback from the conference participants, who appreciated the opportunity to come together as a community and share stories in a supportive environment. As Professor Dodson noted, it really was an opportunity for the researchers to listen to and learn from our participants.
The 'Defending Country' conference more broadly supports the Serving Our Country project's aim to document, profile and illustrate stories of Indigenous defence service to create a more inclusive narrative of Australia's defence history.
There were many other activities this year for the Serving Our Country project. Nation-wide Community Yarnups were conducted throughout New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania, to collect oral history recordings of Indigenous defence stories. These took places in cities and towns including Newcastle, Cairns, Cherbourg, Moree, Hobart and Launceston, as well as many other places. People turned up with stories, photographs and other memorabilia to share. Consultations were led by Professor Mick Dodson. Our Community Consultation Coordinator, Craig Greene, and the Research Associate, Allison Cadzow, were key members of this team. 2015 will be another busy year for the Community Yarnups, which will take place in the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia.
As we reflect on the year that has passed, our team is grateful for the support of our partner organisations – Department of Defence, Department of Veterans' Affairs, Australian War Memorial, National Archives of Australia and AIATSIS, who we continue to collaborate with and share ideas. Our project website provides a snapshot of project activities, as does our facebook page (ourmobserved). Please be sure to check them out!
Content by Kate Macfarlane.