• File Image of crowds in the early morning ahead of the Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Bicentennial Park in Darwin, Saturday, April 25, 2015. (AAP)Source: AAP
For fifth generation serviceman Lieutenant Nigel Browne, Anzac Day is about honouring the sacrifice of his Aboriginal ancestors and inspiring the next generation.
Lucy Hughes Jones

25 Apr 2017 - 10:58 AM  UPDATED 25 Apr 2017 - 11:25 AM

Standing with his daughter at Darwin's Anzac Day dawn service on Tuesday, the Larrakia man was proud to represent his family's long military history.

Lieutenant Browne has relatives in the army and navy dating back to 1900.

"My old man passed away last September as well, so it's the first year we're having Anzac Day without him," he told AAP.

"It's important to acknowledge those who have come before you."

The 38-year-old, who is a legal officer in the navy, said Aboriginal diggers were once treated as second class citizens but now the Australian military's contribution to Northern Territory indigenous communities is profound.

"The defence force employs a lot of people from communities and they're fantastic role models for the younger generations," he said.

"In this day and age I can say from experience that the defence force is very open and offers people an even playing ground."

Anzac Day is remembered each year at Darwin's Cenotaph overlooking the harbour that was bombed by Japanese enemy planes in World War II.

The commemorations come two months after the city marked the 75th anniversary of the attack that was more savage than Pearl Harbour.

Combined sacrifices during that conflict helped forge Australia's nearly 70-year alliance with the US, and last week Darwin welcomed another rotation of American marines.

"For a lot of Larrakia people that's not necessarily welcoming strangers, but old friends, because of course you had the USS Peary and other American servicemen in the bombing of Darwin," Lieutenant Browne said.

Thousands of Territorians gathered at the muggy dawn service to pay tribute to the Gallipoli landings 102 years ago.

Commander of the Darwin-based 1st Brigade, Brigadier Ben James, addressed the service and said the spirit of the first Anzacs lives on in those who have served in campaigns since.

He pointed to Paralympian war veteran Curtis McGrath, a former sapper who delivered the commemorative address at Canberra's Australian War Memorial dawn service.

McGrath's Darwin-based engineer unit was deployed to Afghanistan, where in 2012 the soldier lost both his legs after stepping on a landmine.

He went on to win a gold medal at last year's Rio Paralympics for the men's KL2 canoeing.

"Need you look any further for an example of courage, tenacity, resilience," Brigadier James said.

"I hope that, just as our modern Anzacs currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and as Curtis McGrath have done, we can all draw inspiration ... from those who have gone before us."


Watch the Alice Springs March: 

The fascinating life of WWI’s only serving Indigenous Australian woman, Marion Leane Smith
The only identified Indigenous Australian woman in WWI was actually serving for Canada.
Remembering Albert Leane: the Indigenous serviceman who fought at the Battle of Fromelles 100 years ago and survived
It was a battle of 'mass slaughter and mass grief', the first time Australians were confronted with 'the full force and horror of industrialised warfare.'