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Introduction to the stories

Bruce Scates introduces four stories exploring aspects of the Indigenous Australian experience of the First Australian Imperial Force.
BRUCE SCATES: Welcome back to the 100 stories and to the second half of our module exploring The Other Anzac. I’m standing now in Beach Cemetery. It’s on the Southern edge of Anzac Cove. And the irregular layout of these graves here in this battlefield cemetery tells us much about the chaos and the carnage of that day when the Anzac’s landed in 1915. Beach Cemetery is a site of pilgrimage for just about every Australian and ever New Zealander who visits Gallipoli. Over there is Simpson’s grave, and behind me is Shrapnel Valley, where Simpson meets his death, taking the wounded down from those ridges on the back of his donkey.
Simpson’s become something of an Australian legend, and that itself is something of an irony. You see, Simpson wasn’t Australian by birth. He was born in County Durham in the North of England. And he certainly wasn’t loyal to the British Empire. He was travelling the world when the Great War broke out, he enlisted for a free passage home, and he loathed the class and the privilege of what he called the louse ridden British Empire. There’s another irony entombed in this graveyard, and I mean entombed quite literally. This is the grave of Richard Maynard. His enlistment number is 1788, the year the British Empire colonised the aboriginal lands we now call Australia.
And his story rases both methodological questions for historians and ethical questions to the wider community. You see, there’s some evidence Maynard may have been of Indigenous descent, and there were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of aboriginal Anzacs. But was Richard Maynard here one of them? His enlistment papers record him simply as a British subject. Recovering Indigenous identity is a difficult and it’s a problematic task. And that task can really only be done by aboriginal communities. Equally complex, I think, is the reason these men enlisted. To fight for an empire that had dispossessed of their country and long denied them the full rights of citizenship.
This week’s module concludes with the story of another one Australia’s black diggers, from Cape Barren Island, Tasmania, a long, long, way across that water.

Watch Bruce Scates introduces the stories from Beach Cemetery, Gallipoli in Turkey.

Having explored aspects of diversity and multiculturalism in the First Australian Imperial Force (AIF), you can now explore stories of the Indigenous Australian experience of the AIF.

After watching the stories, we’ll be asking you to reflect and share your thoughts on the experiences and contributions of Indigenous Australians who fought in the Great War.

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World War 1: A History in 100 Stories

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