Indigenous Diggers honoured for first time

WHEN war broke out in 1914, many Indigenous men were among the rush of soon-to-be soldiers ready to defend their country.

In fact, indigenous Australians have fought in every conflict Australia has been a part of and, until very recently, remained largely unrecognised for their courage and sacrifice.

One such digger was William Williams, better known as Cobar Bill, who fought in the south of France in WWI.

His grandson Keith Williams has marched in the past in his grandfather's honour, however, this year was special because it was the first time the Indigenous Anzacs were included in the official ceremony.

Keith remembered the stories his grandfather told him about his four years at war.

"He joined up in 1914 at Forbes after walking there from Ivanhoe and was sent almost immediately to Europe," Keith said.

William came close to making the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

"He was wounded and he showed me the scars on his leg and arm from where he was shot," he said.

Not only that, but William became a prisoner of war and the German's didn't believe his black skin.

"They cut his skin till he bled because they thought it was paint.

"They wanted to know why he was fighting and told him he had no land."

The Germans had guns with bayonets pointed at him, but William told them because it was his country.

While he was never officially recognised in his lifetime beyond three medals and never allowed to march, his brave legacy lives on with his family and his great granddaughter Alison Johnstone said it was thanks to Griffith Sub-branch of the RSL that Indigenous diggers were recognised officially.

"Griffith is the first RSL to officially honour the Aboriginal diggers," she said.

"We're hoping it will spread and get into the curriculum to educate people about the Aboriginal diggers.

"Education is our best weapon against ignorance."

Keith Williams lays a wreath for his grandfather William Williams.

Keith Williams lays a wreath for his grandfather William Williams.


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