• Aboriginal War Veterans participate in the ANZAC Day march at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. (AAP)Source: AAP
Indigenous Australians have taken centre stage at marches across the country for Anzac Day.
By
Robert Burton-Bradley, Craig Quartermaine, Elliana Lawford

25 Apr 2017 - 2:35 PM  UPDATED 25 Apr 2017 - 6:27 PM

Indigenous veterans and their relatives have marched in Anzac Day parades around the country today.

This year was the first time Indigenous diggers led the march in Canberra, where they were marching for veterans and also for those who died in the Frontier wars, which the Australian War Memorial refuses to recognise as a conflict affecting Australians.

Further north in Alice Springs a group of 36 students from a remote Central Australian Community rode 127kms through the desert on wild brumbies to honour Indigenous soldiers.

The students from Hermannsburg finished their week-long journey today, riding and marching in the Alice Springs Anzac Day Parade.

“[They were] representing our Aboriginal light horsemen soldiers, who some of them never came back, really some of them came back for nothing, didn't get realised or recognised or anything like that,” assistant teacher and trainer Jeremy Moketarinja told NITV.

“[The ride] is important for every blackfella in Australia, because we [are] representing all them across the land here, across Australia, because not only our family fought war, but a lot of other people family.”

The Director of the Australian War Memorial, Brendan Nelson, paid tribute to the contribution made during wartime by First Nations Peoples.

Speaking to NITV, Dr Nelson said a new exhibition, part of the centenary of the Anzacs, had paid close attention to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s involvement with Australian defence forces.

“'For Country for Nation' is an exhibition we are immensely proud of,” he said.

“It was put together not only by our professional staff, but we brought in an Indigenous curator to work with us. We established a council of knowledge and understanding, including Indigenous veterans and members of the broader Indigenous community.

“We broke new ground with the exhibition in that we not only tell the stories of what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women have done for Australia," he said. 

The exhibition also looks closely at the horrendous treatment Indigenous Australians received at the hands of European settlers and the fact that, despite this, many still wanted to volunteer to fight for Australia.

“We also give visitors a sense of the social dimensions of the desperate inequality of the Australia from which they volunteered to then serv,e and then their treatment in then returning back to Australia,” Dr Nelson said.

“Reflect on stories of violence perpetrated Indigenous people … and then they are trying to volunteer to fight for the same country – remarkable people”.

Long tradition of service remembered

In Darwin, Larrakia man was Lieutenant Nigel Browne 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."

In Western Australia, thousands assembled at the Fremantle War Memorial where Aunty Marie Taylor and her Grandson Ewan performed the welcome to country.

Fremantle has special significance as this is the last place where many service personnel set foot on Australian soil. Fremantle is also where you board the Ferry for Wadjemup or Rottnest Island. Earlier this week, a new memorial was unveiled on the island to honour Indigenous war veterans from the Vietnam war.

The veterans march commenced soon after the service at the Fremantle Esplanade, where many will get to thank veterans past and present for their Service.

Additional reporting by AAP