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For Kin and Country

First Peoples in the Australian Defence Force

25 April 2022 - 24 March 2024

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following content contains images, names and voices of people who have died.

This special exhibition explores the extraordinary history of First Peoples’ service in the Australian Defence Force.

In the early 20th century, defence service provided an escape for First Peoples from ongoing dispossession and discrimination and was for many their first experience of equal treatment. Most were paid the same rates as their European counterparts and there was little racism on the front line. Indeed, First Peoples service personnel felt a strong sense of continuing ancient traditions of protecting Country, and hoped their example of service would help improve conditions for their families and communities.

Veterans, however, returned to the same discrimination they had previously known.

In this special exhibition, photographic portraits sourced from veterans and their families, the Australian War Memorial, Koorie Heritage Trust, and the Shrine’s own collection illustrate personal stories of First Peoples’ service from the Boer War to today, whilst interviews, filmed in conjunction with the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, offer insight into the ongoing effects of war service on families and individuals.

These stories matter to us; we know they’ll matter to you.

Map of Victoria showing First Peoples' Countries

The veterans featured in this exhibition come from Countries that lie within the modern state of Victoria, as well as individuals from Countries in other states who have made Victoria their home. This places individuals within Country, so they always have family—kin—around them.

Map of Victoria showing First Peoples' Countries
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View the video series In our words, on display in the exhibition.

Watch first hand accounts of First Peoples service from the veterans themselves, and their families.