First Nations in the Australian Defence Force
Source: The Australian War Memorial
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have served in every conflict and commitment involving Australian defence contingents since Federation, including both world wars and the intervals of peace since the Second World War.
Indigenous Australians in the First World War served on equal terms but after the war, in areas such as education, employment, and civil liberties, Aboriginal ex-servicemen and women found that discrimination remained or, indeed, had worsened during the war period.
The repression of Indigenous Australians increased between the wars, as protection acts gave government officials greater control over Indigenous Australians. As late as 1928 Indigenous Australians were being massacred in reprisal raids. A considerable Aboriginal political movement in the 1930s achieved little improvement in civil rights.
Indigenous Australians who fought for their country in World War II came back to much the same discrimination as before. For example, many were barred from Returned and Services League clubs, except on Anzac Day. Many of them were not given the right to vote for another 17 years.
Once the intense demands of the WWII were gone, the army re-imposed its restrictions on enlistment. But attitudes had changed and restrictions based on race were abandoned in 1949. Since then Indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islanders have served in all conflicts in which Australia has participated.