For Love of Country preview: Veteran Profile of Leigh Elijah Herewane MM (1895-1956)

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this blog will contain images and names of people who have passed away


Aboriginal Veterans of South Australia (AVSA) co-chair Ian Smith is researching Aboriginal Veterans from South Australia, and those with links to South Australia and will be releasing a book, complete with Veteran profiles in the future, titled 'For Love of Country'.

Reconciliation SA has been granted permission to share the profile of one of the Veterans from the book; that Veteran is Leigh Elijah Herewane MM. Poetically, Leigh Elijah Herewane MM is a perfect choice to share on Anzac Day, as he is of Maori, and Aboriginal descent. Leigh Elijah Herewane MM fully represents what ANZAC Day is celebrating.

Elijah Lyttleton Herewane was born on 25 October 1895 at Rosaville near Mount Gambier to Stephen Herewane, a Maori, and Jane Ralston, an Aboriginal woman. On 8 August 1896, Stephen and Jane were charged at the Mount Gambier Police Court with having no visible means of support. The charges were withdrawn, but instead their children were charged with being “destitute”. The children were Joseph, Stephen, Eleazar, Isaiah, Mary Jane, and Elijah, all ten years of age or younger. The court allowed the parents to keep their three younger children, including Elijah, but the three older boys were sent to the Industrial School at Magill in Adelaide.  Sadly, later that year, Stephen drowned in the South Para River while swimming. In March 1907, Elijah was himself admitted to the Industrial School, thus losing connection to his family. His older sister Mary Jane had also been admitted to the Industrial School the year before. It appears that Elijah started to use a different name, as in 1914, a Leigh Elijah Herewane was charged with burglary at Murray Bridge. He pleaded guilty and stated that he had come to Australia from New Zealand as an infant and did not remember his parents. He was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment.

He enlisted at Keswick on 13 July 1915 giving his age as 21, using the name Leigh Elijah Herewane and an address in Richmond, Victoria. He also gave his place of birth as Wanganui, New Zealand. Prior to his enlistment he had been working as a labourer. He was allocated to the 9th reinforcements to the 16th Battalion. After initial training at the Mitcham Camp, he embarked aboard the Star of England at Adelaide on 21 September. He arrived in the Middle East a month later, and after a brief stint in hospital with jaundice, was briefly transferred to the 48th Battalion before being posted to the 4th Pioneer Battalion in mid-March 1916. After further training his unit embarked for Marseilles in southern France in early June. Soon after his arrival in France he was charged with a disciplinary offence and was awarded 28 days Field Punishment No. 1, which involved being shackled to a post for several hours a day and undergoing hard labour. This was a common punishment for disciplinary infractions by soldiers during the First World War. He continued to serve with his battalion throughout 1916 and early 1917 before spending two weeks in rest and convalescence camps with lumbago in May. He rejoined his unit in June, but was arrested by the military police for being absent without leave for two hours. His punishment was seven days of Field Punishment No.2, which was similar to No. 1, but did not involve being shackled to a post. He was also docked two weeks pay.

On the night of 24 September 1917 he was a stretcher-bearer with his company when they were caught in a very heavy artillery barrage. For his actions that night he was recommended for the Military Medal for bravery in the field:

'He was a stretcher bearer with his company proceeding to work on the Westhoek-Zonnebeke Road. Just as they reached the road, they were suddenly caught in a very heavy barrage lasting about 30 minutes and suffered many casualties. Throughout this period, he moved among his company attending the wounded and never attempted to take cover himself. It was mainly due to his gallant conduct and absolute disregard for his personal safety that the wounded were removed to a place of safety thereby saving many of their lives.'

His award was posted in the London Gazette of 14 December 1917 and the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette of 2 May 1918.

He was hospitalised with a fever in mid-October 1917. In late November he was disciplined for creating a disturbance and lost his lance-corporal stripe. There is no record of when he had been appointed as a lance-corporal, but it may have occurred at the time he was awarded the Military Medal. He rejoined his unit at the end of November, and was given two weeks leave in the United Kingdom in January 1918. In February he was admitted to hospital with an irregular heartbeat, and after recovering he was posted to the Australian Veterinary Hospital at Coquelles. He got into strife at this unit on several occasions, and was sentenced to several more stints of Field Punishment No. 2. He was subsequently posted back to the 4th Pioneer Battalion in June 1918. No sooner had he rejoined his old unit, than he was in trouble again. Another 28 days of Field Punishment No. 2 followed. In early September 1918 he was admitted to hospital for a couple of weeks, again with heart problems, and this recurred in October. He was then posted back to the Australian Veterinary Hospital, but the decision was taken to return him to Australia for medical discharge.

He returned to Australia aboard the Morvada, embarking on 4 January 1919 and disembarking at Adelaide on 18 February. His pending arrival was noted in the Daily Herald of 8 February. On 27 February, he was feted at a welcome home social held at the Truro Institute. He was medically discharged on 13 April. On 4 July, Leigh was presented with his Military Medal by the Governor of South Australia, Sir Henry Galway, at Keswick Barracks. In addition to his Military Medal for bravery, he was also issued with the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, and the Victory Medal for his service. His older brother Joseph served with the 5th Field Artillery Brigade and survived the war.

He was living in Renmark when he received his British War Medal in October 1921. He applied for a war pension while living in Adelaide in 1924, but his claim was rejected as he did not attend a medical review. In 1927, he was involved in advocating for builders’ labourers by speaking at the Botanic Park, Adelaide, and was prosecuted for speaking there without a permit. He married Hellene Richardson Jennings at Wayville on 11 September 1929. He was also a notable advocate for unemployed returned soldiers during the Depression in the early 1930s, and was involved in trying to change the administration of the South Australian Soldiers’ Fund so that it would better help unemployed soldiers and their families. In about 1934, tired of trying to keep one step ahead of the bailiffs in rented accommodation, Leigh and his family moved to the Semaphore Esplanade sandhills where he built a series of wood and iron buildings to house the family. In about 1939 the local council forced them to move, and they went to Barmera, where Leigh built a series of similar huts on the shores of Lake Bonney. During World War II, Leigh briefly enlisted in the Army as a private with the 4th Garrison Battalion in mid-1940, but was discharged after two weeks. By 1945 the family were living at Burra. Two of his sons served in World War II, Alexander James, and Edward Elijah Lyttleton.

Leigh died on 26 January 1956 at Burra, aged 60, and was buried at the Burra Cemetery. His name is inscribed on the path of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander War Memorial at the Torrens Parade Ground, Adelaide.

This profile sheds a bit of light on who Leigh Elijah Herewane MM was. At times a bit of a rascal, but when lives were at stake, he was a courageous and dependable man whose actions were vital in saving many lives. He is just one of many soldiers who, in the face of intense scrutiny because his heritage, put his life on the line regardless.


Researched and written by Ian Smith, Aboriginal Veterans South Australia (AVSA). For more information on sources, please see below.


1896 'Mount Gambier Police Court', Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954), 12 August, p. 2. , viewed 21 Oct 2016,
1896 'Drowning Case At Gawler', South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), 27 October, p. 7. , viewed 21 Oct 2016,
1914 'Criminal Court', The Express and Telegraph (Adelaide, SA : 1867 - 1922), 31 August, p. 4. (4 O'CLOCK WAR EDITION), viewed 21 Oct 2016,
1919 'Returning Soldiers', Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA : 1910 - 1924), 8 February, p. 7. , viewed 21 Oct 2016,
1919 'The Country', The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), 4 March, p. 6. , viewed 21 Oct 2016,
1919 'Presentation Of Medals', The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), 3 July, p. 6. , viewed 21 Oct 2016,
1927 'In The Courts', The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), 9 December, p. 14. , viewed 21 Oct 2016,
1933 'Winding Up Of Fund Urged', News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954), 8 August, p. 3. , viewed 22 Oct 2016,
1933 'Move To Alter Fund Control', News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954), 29 August, p. 1. , viewed 22 Oct 2016,
1936 'Charge Withdrawn', The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), 14 January, p. 19. , viewed 22 Oct 2016,
1938 'Barmera Police Court', Murray Pioneer and Australian River Record (Renmark, SA : 1913 - 1942), 1 September, p. 4. , viewed 22 Oct 2016,
1945 'New Pupils Total 28 At Burra Primary School', Burra Record (SA : 1878 - 1954), 20 February, p. 1. , viewed 22 Oct 2016,
Summers, Viona June & Murphy, Catherine & Ward, Edna, 1924- & Broadbent, Bertha, 1930- 1990, Interview with Viona June Summers, Edna Ward and Bertha Broadbent, State Library of South Australia
State Records of South Australia, GRG27/5/00000/7 Ledgers of children boarded out - Destitute Board, later State Children's Department (172f, 187f)
State Records of South Australia, GRG27/9/00000/3 Register of admissions - Industrial School, Magill and Edwardstown (1907/125)
National Archives of Australia: B2455, HEREWANE L E 3801

Hear from AVSA Co-Chairs Uncle Frank Lampard OAM and Ian Smith

Aboriginal Veterans South Australia (AVSA), as explained by co-chair Ian Smith

"is a group of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people that want to make sure that the service and sacrifice of Aboriginal people for country is recognised."

AVSA grew out of the work of the Aboriginal Independents’ Project in the early 2000’s, this project aimed to encourage Aboriginal veterans and their families to access unclaimed entitlements and medals. Over the years this group was a staunch advocate and working body for the erection of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander War Memorial and the Register of Aboriginal Veterans in SA project here in South Australia.

But, Ian Smith clarifies that the group still do a lot of work, saying

"We engage in a lot of different activities to do that. We support the national ANZAC service each year, we are involved in a number of grave re-dedications, taking Aboriginal veterans back to country that were buried away from country. We support programs that are being run by other organisations, and we have been involved with Country Arts on a project for the last 3 years, it's been fantastic, it’s covered all conflicts."

AVSA also plays a key role in the organising an ANZAC Day Gathering and an Aboriginal Commemoration Service each year, both events being held at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander War Memorial, Torrens Parade Ground.

The ANZAC Day gathering, which has been cancelled, as Aboriginal co-chair Uncle Frank Lampard OAM explains it is

"a casual gathering at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander War Memorial, to relate the cultural elements to ANZAC Day for our mob.  The ANZAC Day Gathering goes from about 8am – 8:45am and now attracts about 150-200 people, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal.  It is a very casual affair with the only formalities including an MC, keynote speech and smoking ceremony. The only formal invitees are the Premier and Leader of the Opposition.  Non-Aboriginal people really love the gathering too as they are able to learn more about history and in many cases re-connect with people they haven’t seen in years.  They might be served in a battalion with an Aboriginal person but not kept in touch, and this gathering allows a chance to reconnect.

This Gathering generally provides an opportunity for AVSA to promote recognition and acknowledgement of Aboriginal peoples participation in all wars and peacekeeping missions from the Boer War until today. It also provides the opportunity for an Aboriginal Veterans to tell us their service story. This year AVSA planned to hear Flight Lieutenant Steven Warrior.

Uncle Frank Lampard OAM, speaking to Reconciliation SA of ANZAC Day, says

“the first thoughts that come to my head on ANZAC Day is family and with that, thoughts about Veterans generally.... because I think about my younger brother Laurie and his Service in Vietnam because shortly after he came home from Vietnam he was killed.”

Uncle Frank, who also acknowledges his uncles and cousins who served in WW1, WW2, Korea and Vietnam says,

“Last year I missed ANZAC DAY here because I was away in France, Belgium and the UK on a trip with Connecting Spirits Community Tour run by Julie Reece Tours.

I was able to visit the Battle Fields of WW1 and many of the Memorials that had the names of Uncles, like Private Arthur Walker, Private Frances Alban Varcoe, Private Cyril Spurgeon Rigney, his brother Private Rufus Gordon Rigney and Private Walter Gollan.”

Speaking of his travels last April, Uncle Frank said

“I presented the ODE at the Menin Gate in Ypres in Belgium and placed a Tribute on ANZAC DAY at Codford Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in memory of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans.”

So on ANZAC Day this year, Uncle Frank shared with Reconciliation SA his plans on how to commemorate this day and reflect on Aboriginal servicemen and servicewomen's sacrifice

“I'll be doing a driveway Candlelight Minutes Silence, then Saying the ODE and listening to the ABC NATIONAL ANZAC DAY BROADCAST. I'll also be thinking of all of you who are doing something similar and wish you a safe, healthy and OK day. As always a special thank you to RSL SA for your commitment, leadership and guidance for us to be able do something on our ANZAC Day.”


Reconciliation SA would like to thank Uncle Frank Lampard for sharing this story and his work as Co-Chair of AVSA.


Please feel free to share with Reconciliation SA how you commemorated ANZAC Day and remembered Aboriginal servicemen and servicewomen on this day, photos are welcomed please load here, and we will collate and share.







AVSA Keynote Speaker Steven Warrior talks Family Legacy, Military and ANZAC Day

Each year Aboriginal Veterans of South Australia (AVSA) hosts an ANZAC Day Gathering at the Aboriginal War Memorial, Torrens Parade Ground. As like many other events, the current COVID-19 social gathering restrictions have halted this very important annual event.

This year, AVSA had approached Mr Steven Warrior, Narungga, Kokatha and Kaurna man, Flight Lieutenant, and Indigenous Liaison Officer at the Air Force, to be the keynote speaker at the ANZAC Day Gathering.

Reconciliation SA caught up with Steven Warrior, in lieu of not being able to hear his keynote this weekend.

 Can you tell us a little bit about your background and where you grew up?

I am a Narungga, Kokatha and Kaurna custodian. I was born in Adelaide but moved to the Yorke Peninsula at the age of 5. When I completed year 12 I decided to move back to Adelaide to pursue a career in Aboriginal Affairs and Education.

 What kind of previous working experiences did you have prior to joining the Air Force, and has that helped you in your role now?

Prior to working in Air Force I worked in Aboriginal Education for 8 years. Initially I began my career as a mentor supporting Aboriginal students with their literacy, numeracy and wellbeing. After 12 months I was offered a role as an Aboriginal Community Engagement Officer. The primary duties of this role was to implement cultural programs and initiatives to increase Aboriginal engagement, immerse Aboriginal culture and provide support to Aboriginal families. I fulfilled this role for over 7 years which empowered my passion for my culture and to provide opportunities for our people. I gained experience in implementing cultural initiatives and advocating on behalf of Aboriginal people which has assisted in being successful in my current role.

Photo by Sergeant Bill Solomou

What family connections and history do you have in the Defence Force?  Do you think this influenced your decision to join the Air Force? As an Aboriginal man working in the Defence, what does ANZAC day mean to you?

My great-great Grandfather Private Ernest Warrior served in the Australian Army and was enlisted in Infantry on August 22nd 1916, where he then served for 3 years. He embarked for France on the 7th of November 1916 and did not return to Australia until 7th of February 1919. A man who was not acknowledged as a citizen yet risked his life to serve for our country. This resonates with me deeply along with all Indigenous men and women that had served prior to the 1967 Referendum which is why Anzac Day has such significance to me as an Aboriginal man in Defence. The courage and sacrifice of those that served to ensure the survival of our people. Our culture and our country is an ongoing reminder that we must not take what was given to us for granted.

 What are your future aspirations in the Air Force?

My aspirations in Air Force is to immerse local Aboriginal culture into everything we do and provide opportunities to our next generation of Aboriginal leaders. I would then like to remain in the Air Force after my 3-year posting and become a Pilot flying the P-8A Poseidon.

How will you be commemorating ANZAC Day this year given the current restrictions?

It will be a slightly different ANZAC Day given no marches or mass gatherings at the Dawn Service or 11AM service which is a great shame.  But at same time, it will certainly be special in its own way and it is great to see the innovative approaches being adopted such as the stand out on your driveway at 6am initiative that is being promoted through social media.  I am also planning on going down to the very special Aboriginal Veterans Memorial at Torrens Parade Ground in uniform on ANZAC Day at some time and laying a wreath by myself to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of those who have gone before us laying the legacy and current serving members like me I have inherited and now nurture for the future.

As the keynote speaker for the ANZAC Day Gathering, what is the key message you would like to share this ANZAC Day?

Although our Country are is going through a tough time, at the going down of the sun and in the morning ‘We will still remember them, despite COVID 19. The sacrifice and service of those who have gone before us should be remembered and I encourage us all to take a moment this Anzac Day to reflect on those that made the ultimate sacrifice.

Reconciliation SA would like to thank Steven Warrior and AVSA for being so willing to talk and share with us. We would like to wish everyone well during their own private commemorations on ANZAC Day.


NRW 2020 Multi Media Competition

Schools’ Multimedia Competition


Reconciliation is once again excited to be holding a Primary and Secondary School competition to celebrate National Reconciliation Week for 2020.

With current gathering restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the varying arrangements regarding homeschooling during term 2. Reconciliation SA is taking this opportunity to explore different and creative ways to engage people in activities and messaging around reconciliation.


Competition Details

Who can enter the competition?

Any (public or private) primary or secondary school can participate in the competition. Only one entry per school is permitted.

What does the winning school receive?

The winning school will receive the commissioning of an Aboriginal Art Mural at their school to value of $2000, which will be themed in the 2020 NRW ‘In This Together’.

What does the competition entail?

This competition is aimed at promoting National Reconciliation Week 2020 in learning environments across South Australia. Entrants will be asked to submit a their creative response to the following questions:

 1. Why do you think the theme for NRW 2020 "In This Together" is important when we think about reconciliation?

2. What does this (or could this) look like in your school?

Entries can be complied in any creative way to abides by current social gathering and distancing restrictions, some examples may include the use of various multi-media platforms, such as, iMovie’s; TikTok exhibition, virtual world tours, digital piece of collaborative art work, recording of a zoom discussion/debate, dance performance recorded via zoom.

What are the important dates?

      • The competition will run throughout Term 2
      • Entries will need to be received in week six no later than 5pm Wednesday 03 June 2020 (this is Mabo Day, and the final day of National Reconciliation Week).
      • The winner will be announced publicly on 11 June 2020, which is also an important date. On 11 June 1988 the Barunga Statement was presented to the then Prime Minister Bob Hawke.

How can we send our entry in?

Please submit all entries to Reconciliation SA Drop Box here



To download a copy of the T&Cs and an entry form, click here.

Please contact for further information and support.


Christopher Crebbin: Aboriginal Artist and Educator on Staying Positive

Reconciliation SA is always proud to advocate for First Nations professionals, especially in the education and advocacy sectors. But we are not the only ones willing to support such practitioners; schools and many communities are more willing than ever to engage with First Nations storytellers, artists, and educators and businesses. Like many industries, the requirements of social distancing has hit these industries and communities hard. Leaving many First Nations people facing a future of uncertainty.

Christopher Burthurmarr Crebbin, a Wanyi and Garawa man, who’s an educator, artist, radio producer, and sole trader spoke with Reconciliation SA about the issues being faced today, in regards to social distancing, educating, and losing business opportunities.

When speaking about the effects this on him as an educator, Crebbin says “this affects me on a couple of levels, especially psychologically, because when I’m teaching, I am very hands-on. I have all these habits built into my life from being a people person and all of a sudden, I have to keep a distance”.

But Crebbin is aware of the associated dangers of being in close proximity of my students, “my partner works in healthcare, so I am very aware and don’t want to put anyone in danger. In my business model, I deal with 180 kids a week and I teach them to dance, draw, paint, become storytellers and I want to be there with them to do that, but I need to protect them, I need to protect the people around me. So, I decided this was going to be my last week working with kids.”

Crebbin was hoping he would not have to isolate himself because of his own protective instincts, but that was not the case, “I was hoping the government would step in and say “No, this is the way forward, but as a parent myself, it’s my job to bring up my kids, nobody else’s, and I don’t feel good about being used as a babysitter.”

As a sole trader, Crebbin says “it’s a hard thing, we can’t always save money so when it comes to the job, I have given up wages next week. It always takes a couple of weeks to get paid, so I know in a couple of weeks there will be a shortfall of money when it’s time to pay bills.”

Crebbin is also disappointed in the communication that he has seen from the country’s leaders “It’s something that has been overlooked, by me not having enough information as a sub-contractor, I have worried, more than maybe I needed to. So, I got asked to teach again next week, even though people should know better, but I said no, I said yes to one job, painting a mural. I never got say down in a room and told here’s a box of gloves, here’s a mask.”

“But I’m feeling like I want to try and look at the other side of the coin” exclaims Crebbin, trying to stay positive, “and use this time to better my practice. Try and make sure my paperwork is in order, do some painting, do some creating. I can read, I can write and create.”


Crebbin’s attitude is a great one to have, be aware, but don’t panic, and spend your newfound time wisely. He also implores everyone whose been working hard to

take a deep breath while you can, have some time for yourself, for your family and reset and just remember, the hard times make you stronger.”