Protecting Country and Culture

7 June, 2016

Commemorating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Servicemen and Servicewomen

Uncle Stephen Williams carrying Sacred Smoke. Image: OurMob

Thousands of people including the NSW Governor gathered in Hyde Park in Sydney recently, to commemorate the work and sacrifices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and servicewomen.

Master of Ceremonies Brett West, RAAF. Image: OurMob

The event was held at the NSW War Memorial for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander soldiers, a confronting series of four standing bullets and three fallen shells, created by artist Tony Albert.

Hundreds of students attended, representing schools from across the Sydney region, including Alexandria Park Community School, which sang Advance Australia Fair in Dharawal.

Alexandria Park Community School. Image: OurMob

His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley the Governor of NSW, told the audience: “I am delighted so many young people have attended such an important event. You need to know that we didn’t make it easy for them [Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander soldiers]. In fact, they had to prove that they were ‘white enough’ to protect their own country”.

NSW Governor and Harry Allie receiving traditional smoking. Image: OurMob

But most of the men and women who enlisted for the First, Second and Vietnam wars saw that as a small price to pay for a chance to see the world, and change their lives.

Cliff and Gail Daylight. Image: OurMob

Cliff Daylight was one of them.

The Kubi Kubi man joined the navy as a junior recruit in 1970 to get away from his hometown of Rockhampton, and the racism he encountered there.

He served in numerous places including a tour of the far east to Vietnam, after completing his training as a quartermaster gunner.

“I think it is important that we recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait men and women who have served in the defence forces because there was never any recognition for us, despite our service. Events like this are an opportunity to see old mates and have a yarn, and engage with young people about the importance of honouring the past.”

David Williams. Image: OurMob

Bundjalung man David Williams joined the navy in 1965 and served for 28 years, 16 of them as a submariner.

“30 members of my family fought for this country, from the light horse to the present day. I just want Australian kids to understand, that if they are from a particular part of this country, they know more than visitors. So it is their job to know about the land they live on, know their history, to help visitors learn”.

The next edition of OurMob will feature a special video package including the stories of David Williams, Cliff Daylight, Harry Allie and Villington Lui.

Image: OurMob


We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners of the lands where we work as well as across the lands we travel through. We also acknowledge our Elders past, present and emerging.

Artwork Credit: Craig Cromelin, from a painting he did titled, "4 favourite fishing holes". It is a snippet of his growing years on the Lachlan River, featuring yabby, turtle, fish and family.