Indigenous people have served in every military conflict that Australia has been involved in since the Boer War (1899-1902). Military service records are a rich source of information about service persons and sometimes their family members.
Where do I find military records?
Three national government agencies, located in Canberra, hold most of the military records on Australian service persons. But some state archives may have some before Federation (1901) records relating to the Boer War. See Archives relating to Indigenous people
National Archives of Australia
The National Archives of Australia holds the personal service records (or files) on all people who have served in the Australian defence forces. These records include place of enlistment, address, age, next of kin, and service history including dates and places of service and medical information. Some files have physical descriptions and/or photographs. Some files identify the person as Indigenous, but some people did not identify themselves as Indigenous.
Records in the National Archives are available to the public if they are 20 years or older, called 'the open access period'. Many are available online.
You can do a name search for personal service records in the National Archives database RecordSearch.
More information about military service records:
- Information about finding Service records - National Archives.
- Information about finding Personal service records - War Memorial.
- Information about the RecordSearch database. All conflicts in the open access period.
- Search by name or place of enlistment Discovering Anzacs. Boer War and World War I.
Australian War Memorial
The Australian War Memorial maintains a set of searchable lists called 'rolls' which are names of service persons in the following categories.
- Roll of Honour - names of service persons who died on active service.
- Commemorative Roll - names of people who were not in the defense forces but who died during or as a result of war.
- Nominal Rolls
- Pre First World War.
- WW1 Embarkation Roll - recorded as defence persons embarked for overseas.
- WW1 Nominal Roll - recorded when service persons received repatriation assistance.
- Honours and Awards - details of military honours.
- Honours and Awards - Recommendations.
- Red Cross Wounded and Missing.
- Prisoners of War.
- Australian Naval Force 1903 to 1911.
See Search for a person to search the rolls and find out more about the information they contain.
Department of Veterans Affairs
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides support and information for military persons and their families. One of its roles is to remember and commemorate service people, including the cemeteries and war graves where they are buried.
- Cemeteries - may help you to locate the burial place of a service person
- World War II Nominal Roll - a specially compiled website with information from the service records of the more than one million persons who service during WW II.
Resources on Indigenous military service
- War Memorial article Indigenous Australian servicemen - an overview of the history of Indigenous service
- War Memorial People, profiles and biographies - see the list of 824 Indigenous biographies
- Department of Veterans Affairs 'All in' - Indigenous service - a website about WW2 and the people who served
- AIATSIS Mura® catalogue - search for resources on the subject 'Defence - Armed forces -Veterans'
- AIATSIS exhibition Indigenous Australians at War developed by Garth O’Connell
- Nominal Roll (PDF 2.9 MB) produced by the Kurbingui Star
- Northern Territory Library - This Roll of Honour focuses on the people who died on 19 February 1942 and does includes Aboriginal peoples names.
Below is a select list of books about the involvement of Indigenous people in war. Many of them include stories and accounts of specific Indigenous individuals. Your local library may have them or be able to order them for you on inter library loan from AIATSIS.
- Forgotten Heroes: Aborigines at War from the Somme to Vietnam, Alick Jackomos, South Melbourne: Victoria Press, 1993.
- Aborigines in the Defence of Australia, edited by Desmond Ball, Sydney: Australian National University Press, 1991.
- Biographical Register of Queensland Aborigines Who Served in the Great War, 1914-1918, compiled by Rod Pratt, Wynnum: Rod Pratt, 1993.
- Fighters From the Fringe: Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Recall the Second World War, Robert Hall, Canberra: Aboriginal Studies, 1995.
- The Black Diggers: Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in the Second World War, Robert Hall, Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1989.
Links to general military information for family history research
- Australia | Military on Cyndi's List - a website for family history research.
- Military records on CoraWeb - a website for family history research.
- AIF Database - online database containing the details of 330,000 men and women who served in the first Australian Imperial Force, 1914-1918.
- Gallipoli and the Anzacs - the timeline Australians at Gallipoli and at War enables you to quickly locate information and perspectives on significant dates in the history of Australian warfare.