Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this page contains images, voices and names of deceased persons.
In 1916, at the age of 21, Ngarrindjeri man Lush Wilson enlisted to serve Australia in World War One. He was one of some 1000 Aboriginal men who enlisted despite discrimination and exclusion from the non-Indigenous community during a time when Aboriginal people were not recognised as citizens and had to hide their true identities.
Serving with the 50th Infantry Battalion, Private Wilson experienced the devastation of the Western Front, fighting in unity alongside his non-Indigenous comrades and for the first time was treated as an equal.
However, upon returning home after the war, Aboriginal servicemen were once again faced with the discrimination and prejudice that was there when they left, leading many to return to Country.
Like many Aboriginal people who served in the early wars, Private Wilson now lies at rest in an unmarked grave, but a group of dedicated veterans are working to ensure that the final resting place of this local hero is appropriately marked and that his service and sacrifice is remembered.
Since 2017, Aboriginal Veterans South Australia (AVSA) have researched, located and arranged for the appropriate marking of the graves of a number of Aboriginal servicemen, including the return to country of Miller Mack from West Terrace Cemetery to Raukkan. Most recently, the grave of Private Lawrence Murray Lampard was marked and dedicated at the West Terrace Cemetery at a service in November 2021.
AVSA has now secured much-needed funding through the Anzac Day Commemoration Fund for a grave marker and dedication ceremony for Private Wilson at the Barmera Cemetery that will bring together the local Aboriginal community, veterans, ex-service organisations, students and the wider community.
Co-Chair of AVSA Ian Smith said the grant funding would provide an important opportunity to commemorate and share the important stories of our past with today’s generation.
“The service and sacrifice of Aboriginal people in peace and in war is not well-known or appreciated in the wider South Australian community, and we are grateful for the South Australian Government’s support of this project,” Mr Smith said.
AVSA Co-Chair Frank Lampard said as part of the initiative AVSA would also undertake community outreach activities, including a series of local school talks aimed to educate students about Aboriginal service.
“By raising the profile of one story of Aboriginal service, through this grave dedication and community awareness activities, the project will help address an identified need to educate and promote greater understanding in the community about the Aboriginal tradition of service,” Mr Lampard said.
The AVSA project is one of 15 ex-service organisations and community groups from across South Australia that secured funding from the 2021-2022 round of the Anzac Day Commemoration Fund.
The Anzac Day Commemoration Fund is an annual grant program funded by the South Australian Government to support initiatives that educate the South Australian community about the significance of Anzac Day or commemorate Australia’s military heritage.
See the full list of Anzac Day Commemoration Grant 2021-2022 recipients.