Aboriginal Servicemen

  • Marcus Brown
  • Memorial Plaques
  • Poem about active service
  • Thomas and Archie Mansell
  • Claude Brown
  • Morgan Mansell

Despite being denied many rights, Aboriginal men from all over Tasmania joined up to fight for the Empire in the Great War. Aboriginal soldiers suffered as much at war and on their return as their non-Aboriginal comrades. After the comradeship and relative equality of the trenches they returned home to the same deeply racist society they had left. Their fight for rights and recognition of their people continued for many decades.

The Suspense is Awful reveals the story of 28 men from Cape Barren and Flinders Islands in eastern Bass Strait who travelled to Hobart’s Claremont Camp to enlist. The islands had one of the highest recruitment rates in Australia. One man died in Hobart, another eight while serving overseas. Like other young men they embraced the relatively high pay and the opportunity to see the world as well as the chance to prove themselves equal to white Australians. Some ran afoul of military discipline, others were exemplary soldiers. They returned to the rhythm of island life that their people had known for a century, but outside their community Aboriginal war service was largely forgotten.

You can learn their stories via The Islanders resource, developed by Roar Film. Visitors to the exhibition will also be able to access this content in the gallery via iPads.