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.