Redfern Anzac Day Commemoration

(Redfern Community Centre)

Thank you, Lily Shearer. I would like, on this Anzac Day, to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of this land, and I pay my respects to the Elders, both past and present.

I would also like to acknowledge Her Excellency, the Governor, Victor Dominello, Linda Burney, Councillors, committee members and visitors.

I especially acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Redfern, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans, and those serving men and women, and their families, who are here today.

They include Phillip and Sterling Minniecon, Pastor Ray's brothers, who are veterans of the Vietnam war, and Clowry Kennel from Queensland, who'll be performing the song he wrote about his brother, who is also a Vietnam vet.

If the Black Diggers who fought so bravely for this country have for too long had due recognition delayed, there has been almost zero recognition for the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

Today, that is being redressed as we focus on honouring the sisters, mothers, aunties and grandmothers, some of whom served in the armed forces, and many more of whom tried to keep homes and families together during the hard war years.

One of those who joined the Australian Women's Army Service was Oodgeroo Noonuccal - Kath Walker - who enlisted in 1942 after her two brothers were captured by the Japanese following the fall of Singapore.

At home, for families already living on the edge, the restrictions and privations of wartime must have provided an enormous extra burden.

In the Torres Strait islands, pearling luggers were confiscated in case they fell into Japanese hands, so those islanders not already enlisted in the Army were unable to work and feed their families.

Aboriginal women played an important role at home in the war effort, working in war industries. In northern Australia, Aboriginal and Islander women supported isolated outposts of the RAAF and often helped salvage crashed aircraft.

Meanwhile, those at home struggled on to hold families and community together.

Their task was made all the more difficult because indigenous servicemen were not paid the same as their white counterparts; some weren't paid at all.

And then, as women always must after a war, they cared for and comforted their men who returned.

Today, indigenous women play a key role in bonding family and community with the quiet, unsung strength that persists in the face of every difficulty and challenge.

Today, we pay tribute to all those - men and women, known and unknown - whose sacrifice and courage has brought us to this place today.

I won't reiterate the words of the Australian War Memorial's official history of indigenous Australians at war: it says that "at a time when Australia was drawing on all its reserves of men and women to support the war effort, the Aboriginal contribution was vital."

Today we recognise and honour that.

Thank you.