Research in the Nations Capital


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that the following post contains images and names of deceased people. 

War Memorial
poppy wall

We had a very busy long weekend of research in Canberra to make connections with people who are the ‘experts’ in this field.  As novice researchers, we felt very “Indiana Jones” as we started to dig away and uncover some of the story of our Boys from Barambah.  Our meeting at AIATSIS with Rita Metzenrath, the Senior Collections Officer was brilliant, in that I was able to learn from her own research to inform ours.  I was also able to show Rita some of my other projects with the Ration Shed and Sharing Culture which has resulted in AIATSIS purchasing all resources, DVD’s, books, you name it, from the Ration Shed to include in their National catalogue.  I was so inspired by this place as every resource and bit of information was focused on our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.  You could hold the actual documents from the early 1900’s, things you had only viewed as online scanned copies were now right before you.

Once I was able to tear myself away from AIATSIS, I headed to the National War Memorial to meet with Gary Oakley, the Indigenous liaison officer for Collections.  Walking into Gary’s office, was literally like a bomb had gone off!!  We found a place to sit in amongst an old collection that he was cataloguing of exploded war heads.  He promised that non were live!!  It was interesting to again hear from Gary his perspectives on the Black Diggers, however, I can not agree with his thoughts that the AIF was one of the first equal opportunity employers.  Never the less, an interesting hour to assist the project and again steer and guide us in our research.  Gary has offered to help us find information relating to about 6 servicemen whose service records and information elude us.  When we left Gary, we were fortunate enough to have enough time to place a poppy in the wall for Archie Marshall and Benjamin Combo, who both lost their lives whilst serving in WW1.  Furthermore, we paid our respects at the Last Post Ceremony and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

On Saturday, we headed to the Aboriginal Tent Embassy to pay our respects to our Elders who have and continue to fight for Rights and Sovereignty.  Here we met Uncle Frank Murphy, one of the Elders who is currently ‘manning’ the Embassy.  After a big yarn, we then headed back to the National War Memorial and into the bowels of the Reading Rooms, where we uncovered more documents and research to enhance our work to date.  If in Canberra, it is a must that you visit this amazing space, you will literally be blown away. As we were coming down the stairs, Charles ‘Tednee’ Blackman, one of our Boys from Barambah, caught my eye. His image was strong and stood out as if he was actually standing there.  Again very special to see the original letters he wrote to Mr Salter of Biggenden, his white employer’ with him he wrote many letters.  It will be these letters that will form part of the story for Charles Blackman for this project.  To have that extra personal touch enhancing the story helps to bing our men alive.

Later in the afternoon, I had the privilege to meet Philippa Scarlett, author of “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Volunteers for the AIF, a comprehensive book which lists the Indigenous men who volunteered for WW1.  What an amazing lady!  Her knowledge and work around this topic is so extensive, it’s as if she personally knows the individual stories of these men in such detail.  Again to have our thoughts for this project confirmed and guided was very encouraging. Philippa has been so generous with her time and knowledge, I found out as we were leaving that it was her Birthday that day, bless her for sharing some of her time and Birthday cake with us.

Sunday was for the kids, visiting Questacon and getting a last look around Canberra.  An amazing weekend that was extremely productive and rewarding.  A huge thank you to my husband, mother, sister and her family for joining and supporting us.  Couldn’t have done it without you all.

On the weekend of the 26th and 27th of September, I have been invited to speak at the State Library Queensland (SLQ) ANZAC 100 Symposium about the Boys of Barambah project with the Elders of Cherbourg’s Ration Shed Museum.  I huge honour!!  The following day, we will attend the “Black Diggers” Play at QPAC to get more of a sense of this great story that needs to be told.  I’m excited to be contributing a small part to this even bigger picture.

Comments are closed.

Sunshine Coast Queensland