Kombumerri Traditional Custodian Contributor: Uncle Graham Dillon OAM

This resource is related to the following Learning Area –

And responds to the following Enquiry Question –

Q28.Did any Kombumerri men fight as black diggers in the World Wars?

Resource transcript –

Yes, some with reluctance or not reluctance but some with difficulty because in those days Aboriginals were not allowed to go into the army, navy or air force. But, for example, I had an uncle, George Hamilton Graham, he got underneath the radar because his father was a white man. He used to look after the beacons and buoys in the channels. He got under the radar. He died over there very sadly, over in Flanders, World War I. Then I had cousins from the six branches of Jenny Graham’s family. Levings, about three or four of the brothers went overseas, World War II, of course. So that’s Levings, Ball, Youk, Grahams one, Grahams two, Dillon, they all contributed to the safety and security of Australia by defending their country. They joined up with the forces, yeah. So… and my brother who was with the air force for a while, pardon me. So, the black diggers, but you don’t hear much about them. They… they have put a memorial in Brisbane or somewhere up there, that I don’t know. But Dr Harry Van Issum, whom I worked with for a long time, he headed that up. A memorial for the black diggers.

How did they fare upon their return?

Badly, because where the non-indigenous soldiers could get land grants and subsidies and get onto setting up homes and getting into the rural industry, there was nothing at all for the Aboriginals. And, indeed, I know this, they were denied access into the RSL clubs. So, it’s an indictment on the governments of the day on how they treated the first nation people descendants who were good enough to go and fight for their country along with non-indigenous people but not good enough to be award or rewarded a block of land or anything like that or even going in to have a beer in the RSL clubs. That was a fact of life on the Gold Coast.