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Back to Being Black: Uncle John Lovett

At the age of 20, my father, Herbert Lovett, went to war in 1917. He was with the 15th Machine Gun Battalion.

Coming from the bush to the battlefields of Europe must have been a mind boggling experience.

He was a curious person. Once when he was a boy, a sound made him jump behind a log on the side of the road. He saw that it was a car. He followed that car on foot for four miles into Heywood. But later, he would see things that should only happen in nightmares. At war in Germany, one of Herbert's mates had his head blown off. It landed into his lap. You just can't imagine being in the trench for three days with one of your mate's headless corpse.

The men in that war fought together against the enemy. Australians side by side, black and white fellas trusting in one another. Mates. Equality.

Finally, the war was over, but one horror turned into another. The freedom Herbert fought for on the Hindenberg line in Germany was lost in the trenches of the battlefield.

Herbert was not honoured like his white mates.

All equality was lost. The emotional wounds of war lay open. Then to rub salt into the wounds, their traditional lands of Lake Condah Mission in south west Victoria was being taken away from them.

The final insult. White fellas who did not even serve in the forces were being given our land for farming. Our lands cut up and given out, taken away from us.

This hypocrisy denied my father opportunities for him to support his family.

Again my father had to leave home in order to find work. He became a part time father to me. At my father's funeral in 1978, he was given the honour of being buried as a returned soldier.

The Australian flag on his coffin  represented his status once again as a British subject.

In hindsight, I think this was odd in light of the fact that he was never given respect 61 years ago as a returned soldier. It was only when he signed up and when he died. The recognition and benefits, it was not given to my father and other Indigenous veterans and families in the First and Second World Wars.

This still is a big issue with me. My father, an Indigenous soldier, was back to being black.

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