11 November 2020
Austin Health has celebrated a unique Remembrance Day with a ceremony at the Repat.
The day was not only unique because a crowd of 50 rather than 400 could attend but it is also the first ever Remembrance Day to also coincide with NAIDOC Week.
Veteran Liaison Officer, Robert Winther, said the day was an opportunity to honour veterans from all backgrounds including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans.
“Remembrance Day is always an important day in the life of the Repat,” Rob said.
“COVID restrictions meant a smaller number of people were able to come along this year but those who did attend laid wreaths acknowledging the sacrifice of service men and women who served their country.
“Staff, veterans, volunteers and representatives of local MPs, Anthony Carbines and Kate Thwaites, all took part and were able to experience the Ode and another fantastic rendition of the Last Post,” he said.
Ngarra Jarra Team Leader, Cath Bradley, noted that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People have fought for Australia in all major wars.
“We acknowledge with deep regret that our Aboriginal veterans did not receive the recognition, support or rights of other returned soldiers,” Cath said.
“Over 1000 Aboriginal men from every state and territory served in WWI and this number would have been higher as many concealed their Aboriginal identity to gain acceptance. Recruits had to be of European origin and our First Nations People did not have citizenship or the right to vote.
“Some of our Aboriginal veterans are honoured at the Repat including Reg Saunders who served in WWII and was the first Indigenous Australian to be commissioned as an officer, and is memorialised in a stained-glass portrait.
“Chris Saunders and Frederick Lovett are also honoured in the mosaic ‘Gunditjmara Warriors’ by artist Simon Normand preserving their legacy for future generations.
“One of our Aboriginal patients, a member of the Stolen Generation from Gunditjmara country, was very moved when he chanced upon the mosaic. He later proudly relayed to the Ngarra Team ‘that’s my mob!’”