CEO Mary Buckskin thanks Les Kropinyeri
$1 million has been fundraised to erect a Memorial for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia at the Torrens Parade Ground in South Australia.
“When Australia went to war, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people went to war voluntarily to fight for our own country,” said Corporal Les Kropinyeri, returned serviceman and Board Member of the Aboriginal Health Council of SA Inc.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people used Afghan names or any other name to enlist as service men and women.
“We didn’t have to go to war – we wanted to go to war to fight for our country and to protect what we have for all Australians,” Les Kropinyeri said.
This is the story that is often unheard – the story of our Indigenous Australians who numbered in their thousands to fight for freedom.
According to Reconciliation Australia, over 3,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women enlisted in World War II and over 800 are known to have served in World War I. The true number is likely to be much higher. There are up to 7,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans and war widows in the Australian community today, and more than 800 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians currently serve with distinction in the Australian Defence Forces.
Les Kropinyeri who went into the Defence Force in April 1967, served in Vietnam from 1968-69 in the 9th Batallion of the Royal Australian Regiment, five months before the end of his voluntary 2-year national service.
He recalls the infantry, ‘Charlie Company’, where he was in charge of a section of men within the 7th Platoon, comprising ten in all, including a rifle section, a gun section and forward scouts. Les Kropinyeri was a Section Commander and proud of it.
Les Kropinyeri has since served his community and all Australians well including as a Board Member of the Aboriginal Health Council of SA Inc.
Chairperson of the Council Mr John Singer pays particular respect on behalf of the Board to Les Kropinyeri and his fellow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service men and women on this ANZAC Day, 25 April 2013.
Led by Sir Eric Neale, $1 million has been fundraised to erect a Memorial for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia at the Torrens Parade Ground in South Australia. Les Kropinyeri says this is a first because most other states have only erected memorials for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of their own states.
A Committee was formed comprising retired, non-active service men and service women including Les Kropinyeri, Gill Green, Frank Clarke, Francis Lampard (Deputy Chairperson), Marj Tripp (Chairperson), Bill Hignett, Bill Denny, Mike Mummery, Garth Dodd (representing Janine Haynes), Elaine Lomas, Lowitja O’Donoghue, Rossalyn Cox, Mark Waters, Eunmi Parke, Ian Smith, and Barry Forrest. This Committee decided to record all the names of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia who served on any war, and the list is growing.
Names have been gathered from everywhere with Elders Groups being the main contributors. “There will be a roll somewhere in time when we have completed the list,” said Les Kropinyeri.
Considering the funds raised through Sir Eric Neale, it was decided to erect a Memorial and now the Committee is concentrating on completing the bronze statues of male and female Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who served in the wars. It is expected that the Memorial will be unveiled in November 2013.
The Aboriginal Health Council of SA Inc. would like to honour Les Kropinyeri and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans on this ANZAC Day 2013. Mr John Singer, Chairperson said, “We are suitably proud of Les Kropinyeri and his fellow returned service men and women, and the fact that they voluntarily fought for our country and freedom.”
The Aboriginal Health Council of SA Inc. (AHCSA) is the peak body representing Aboriginal community controlled health and substance misuse services, and Aboriginal health advisory committees across South Australia. AHCSA is an affiliate of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.
ENDS. For further information contact: Mrs Mary Buckskin, Chief Executive Officer, Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia Inc., 08 8273 7200.