The Sea of the Galilee, an Aboriginal soldier and his horse

September 29, 2019 by J-Wire Staff
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A statue of an Aboriginal soldier and his horse has been unveiled by Australia’s ambassador Chris Cannan on the shore of the Kinneret to honour Australians who lost their lives at the Battle of Tzeach in 1918.

Chris Cannan unveils the statue   Photo: Tohar Peri

Ambassador Chris Cannan told the audience witnessing the unveiling at the historic Semakh Station in the grounds of the Kinneret College.

“Today we commemorate the sacrifice of Australian troops who fought here – during the Battle of Semakh – 101 years ago.

  • Australians who planted the roots that would set the tone for Australia’s security commitments in this region and the strong and longstanding friendship between Australia and Israel.

And today we pay particular tribute to the contributions of the Australian Aboriginal troopers of the First World War.

As Australian Ambassador to Israel, it is also my privilege to take part in the unveiling ceremony of the “Statue of the Aboriginal Soldier” in the presence of Mark Pollard, grandson of Light Horseman Jack Pollard, as well as other descendants.

The statue    Facebook

It’s a moving tribute to Jack and to all of the Aboriginal soldiers who fought so valiantly during the Sinai Palestine campaign, and across Europe.

At the outbreak of the war, many Australians enlisted into the military and about one thousand Aboriginal Australians answered the call and contributed to the war effort.

And it was in these lands, these holy lands, where Aboriginal troopers would demonstrate their courage, their horsemanship and their skill.

Major C.A.R. Munro of the 11thLight Horse Regiment briefly described the unique spirit of the Aboriginal troopers on the battlefield:

Some of them were in the Squadron of which I commanded in May, 1918, when the mounted troops, Australian and New Zealanders, charged through the Turkish line in the Jordan valley and rode about eight miles to their rear to cut the communication lines. I remember seeing some of the Aborigines well out in the frontline of the advance, and know at least one of them was wounded at the time when the Turks over-ran us.

The 11thLight Horse Regiment was comprised of about 30 Aboriginal people – the largest number of Aboriginal troopers serving in one unit.  They would go on to make the historic charge at Semakh, a part of the final allied offensive of the Sinai-Palestine Campaign.

But Semakh was not a just strategic victory – it was more than that.

Atop their horses, with bayonets across their shoulders, Aboriginal troopers forged tight bonds with their fellow Australians.

They were part of the same story. The Light Horse story. The Anzac story. A lasting legacy of heroism, mateship and resilience felt to this day.

In 2017, at this site, descendants of Indigenous Anzacs planted trees in memory of their ancestors to remember the contributions of those who went before them.

All Australian soldiers faced challenges fighting a difficult war in a harsh environment thousands of kilometres from home but our Indigenous troops faced particular challenges.

On the battlefield, all were equal. But back in Australia, these Aboriginal soldiers were not considered Australian citizens, and could not vote.

And on returning to Australia, they faced discrimination in education and employment and restrictions on their civil liberties.

While much has of course changed, Indigenous Australians continue to face disadvantages even as Australian governments commit to ‘closing the gaps’ to ensure all Australians have the same opportunities.

This year we mark seventy years of official Australia-Israel diplomatic relations. The relationship is thriving across the board. In defence, national security, innovation, investment and people to people links.

But as we look towards the future, we must remember the sacrifice and bravery of Australian troops during the Sinai Palestine campaign; world war one, and indeed all wars.

They wrote the critical early chapters of Australia’s national story, and the Australia-Israel story and their sacrifice gave us the opportunity to write our own stories.

Lest we forget.”

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