(Re)Presenting Indigenous Histories of the First World War: Case Studies for Museums


(Re)Presenting Indigenous Histories of the First World War: Case Studies for Museums (905 KB) pdf document icon


Cockburn, S, & Beetson, A.


Cockburn, S, & Beetson, A. 2020. (Re)Presenting Indigenous Histories of the First World War: Case Studies for Museums. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum – Culture 11: 93–106. https://doi.org/10.17082/j.2205-3239.11.1.2020.2020-07

Date published

June 2020




First World War, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander soldiers, Contemporary art, museums


Over 1000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander soldiers fought in WW1, at a time when they had few rights on home soil. While on active duty many of these soldiers received the same conditions and respect as their non-Indigenous counterparts. Yet when they returned it was back to a life of discrimination, and their stories were silenced. In the decades after the war, Indigenous voices were rarely present in the memorialising of the ANZAC legend. For museums trying to commemorate the centenary of WWI the absence of tangible collections relating to Indigenous soldiers presents a challenge. How do you exhibit what you do not have? In recent years the arts have been one of the most prominent means of drawing attention to the experiences of those who served. From the play Black Diggers to Tony Albert’s sculptural installation Yininmadyemi-Thou didst let them fall, leading artists have been creating spaces for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to commemorate family members’ contributions, and raise their stories into the collective Australian consciousness. This paper will explore the role that the arts can play in creating a true and representative ANZAC mythology within Australia’s cultural institutions.