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WWI Aboriginal soldiers commemorated at Blue Mountains Hospital

26 Apr 2021

 

The service and sacrifice of local Aboriginal soldiers who served in World War I (WWI) was commemorated at a special memorial unveiling at Blue Mountains District ANZAC Memorial Hospital.

The names of 35 Darug and Gundungurra Aboriginal soldiers have been etched onto ironbark plaques, establishing a dedicated Aboriginal war memorial at the nation’s only ANZAC Memorial Hospital.

The memorial was created in consultation with families, Elders and Blue Mountains Hospital’s Aboriginal Health Advisory Committee, who sought to identify and formally recognise the Aboriginal soldiers whose names were not included on original tribute boards erected in 1927.

General Manager of Blue Mountains Hospital, Elizabeth Harford explains, “In the ‘20s, marble plaques naming and honouring the local Blue Mountains soldiers and one nurse who died while serving in WWI were established at what was then the main entrance to this hospital.”

Dr Harford says these plaques remain in place today as a tribute to these soldiers. However, the local Aboriginal soldiers who also fought during WWI were not recognised on the memorial.

“For far too long, the service and sacrifice made by these Aboriginal soldiers in defence of Country has gone unrecognised,” says Dr Harford.

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35 Darug and Gundungurra Aboriginal soldiers have been etched onto ironbark plaques.

“These soldiers are our forgotten heroes. It was incredibly important to us, as a hospital community, that we honour these men and create an enduring memorial of Aboriginal soldiers.”

The Aboriginal war memorial will be situated near the existing WWI tribute.

“In working with our Aboriginal Health Advisory Committee, local Elders and families, we recognise that there may be other Aboriginal soldiers from the Blue Mountains who have not been found or identified. We intend to update the memorial with additional names as they become known,” Dr Harford says.

The plaques were unveiled as part of an ANZAC Day commemoration event which included a Welcome to Country performed by Darug and Gundungurra Elder, Auntie Carol Cooper, a commemorative address by Flying Officer Coomara Munro of the Royal Australian Air Force and a smoking ceremony.

The commemoration was also supported by the Joint Operation Support Staff of the Australian Defence Forces with an attending bugler and drummer from the Australian Army Band – Sydney and a Catafalque Party from the 176 Air Dispatch Squadron RAAF Base Richmond.