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The Daughter

Aileen Rigney was the daughter of Cyril Rigney a member of the 43rd
Battalion. Cyril was killed in action in France in July 1917 and was
posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He
never met his daughter. Rigneys widow remarried and his daughter was
later placed in the care of her great-aunt and great uncle. She was
awarded a pension, which was placed in a trust fund.
Whenever she wanted to buy clothing, she had to order from a
department store catalogue and her goods would be sent to her by mail. If
she wanted cash, she had to apply to the Repatriation Department. It
appears that she was the only child of a soldier killed in action who had to
do this.
When she turned 21, Aileen Rigney requested that the balance of the
pension be transferred to a bank account. The Deputy Commissioner of
Repatriation refused her request, but a compromise was reached, and the
monthly payments were doubled.
Mr McLean, the Protector of Aboriginals, was of the opinion that it would
be a mistake to hand over a large sum of money to any of these people.

The Mothers
Private Charles Martyn was a resident of Goombungee a small town on the
Darling Downs who died in the Battle of Menin Road where there were
over 5000 Australian casualties.
When the tiny town of Goombungee unveiled its memorial to the war dead
of the district there were the usual ritual proceedings, with prayer, hymns,
and a bugler who played the Last Post. When the names of all the fallen
soldiers were read out, many people became emotional. At the back of the
crowd stood a solitary woman. Her son had also been killed and she stood
weeping throughout the whole ceremony. However, not one person sought
to comfort her or bring her forward into the throng. She was ostracised.

An amendment to the Aboriginal Protection Act 1915 gave the
government more control over Aboriginal communities by declaring
parental rights over all children. This allowed children to be taken from
their families without parental consent and without a court order. Many
women received the double blow of losing their husband on the frontlines
and then losing their children as they were removed for their own good.

Roland Carter enlisted to fight in July 1915. In April 1917 he was wounded
and taken prisoner by German forces. He spent three months in hospital
before being transported to a German POW camp. He wrote many letters
home and excerpts we have show he was treated quite well. He was able
to position himself in a good job working with the mail. In letters home he
tells us more about his life in the camp:
I am not in the best of health, my wounds have all broken out again, but I
hope to be better soon, I am attending the doctor - I am getting good
treatment here. All my other comrades are in the best of health"
"This leaves me in fairly good health. I am getting good treatment here.
Last Friday I went in the town to see the moving pictures. All the Native
Prisoners of War went. We have Church here every other Sunday."
"I am in good health. I am having a good time here and if all goes well
shall be going to the Moving Pictures tomorrow. We go to church every
other Sunday and I like it very much."
He was eventually repatriated back to Australia but it seems he received
better treatment and more respect in the German prisoner of war camps
then he did when he returned home.

The Family

The Lovett family occupy an impressive position in Australian military

history as one of the largest volunteer family groups to serve on the side
of the British Empire. Overall, twenty members of the Lovett family,
including two female members, have served Australia in both war and
peacekeeping missions, from the Western Front to East Timor. Not only did
all twenty members survive their service, but four of the Lovett brothers
served in both World War I and World War II.
Five Lovett brothers voluntarily enlisted to fight with the Australian armed
forces on the side of the British Empire, despite not being recognised as
Australian citizens. Like many others, their applications were nearly
rejected because of their status however they were eventually accepted
because they were not pure blooded blacks. When they returned home,
the Lovett familys traditional lands, at Lake Condah, were sold to the
State Government for its Solider Settlement Scheme. Unlike other nonIndigenous servicemen who were offered land upon their return, the
Lovetts application for land under the scheme was denied.

The Community
Returning Australian troops unintentionally brought home with them a
severe strain of the influenza virus in 1919. The dispossessed and
detribalised Aboriginal communities of south-east Australia were not in a
strong position to resist the virulent attack because of the substandard
accommodation available to them and the low income levels of most
families during an era when Commonwealth social security payments
were denied to them. Furthermore, many Aboriginal communities like
Barambah Settlement had little understanding of how to treat the
combined symptoms of heavy cold, fever, headaches and aching limbs.
When the epidemic struck the government-run reserve, many residents
took to the bush as the Melbourne Argus reported on 10 June 1919.
The officials in charge of the reserve had great difficulty in coaxing the
Aboriginal people away from traditional remedies and getting them to
return to the settlement for European treatment. Eighty-seven residents
died as a result of the epidemic at Barambah and 31 at Taroom
Settlement. The population of Taroom at the time of the explosive
outbreak of the epidemic was 400 people and within 24 hours more than
half had contracted pneumonic influenza.

Indigenous Australians at War Questions

Impact After War
State Benefits


Social Status
Rights Movement

Political Rights

Influenza Outbreak

Complete the following in your books:

Were Indigenous soldiers always welcome to join up? Explain your answer.
Write a list of least four reasons why Aboriginal Australians joined the army.
How were the soldiers treated at war?