Aboriginal veterans honoured in Kings Park service for Reconciliation Week

Korean War veteran Len Ogilvie and his wife Jean were at the service for Aboriginal veterans. Pic: Andrew Ritchie.
Korean War veteran Len Ogilvie and his wife Jean were at the service for Aboriginal veterans. Pic: Andrew Ritchie.

THE military service of Aboriginal people was remembered on Wednesday at the 12th State War Memorial service in Kings Park.

Services commemorating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans, from the Boer War to the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iran, are taking place across Australia as part of Reconciliation Week.

About 500 Aboriginal people enlisted in World War I and about 3000 in World War II.

Others joined up for the subsequent Korea and Vietnam conflicts, peacetime service and more recently many served in Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yamaji man and wounded Korean War veteran Len Ogilvie (91) signed up after a run-in with a policeman in Mount Magnet before the 1950-1953 war on the Korean peninsula.

“In any town you went to, the police would want to know who you were,” he said.

“Before I joined the army, as an Aboriginal (man) you had no rights.”

He discovered equality in the ranks and when he returned home after seven years of service, he noticed a change in others’ attitudes.

“They’d say you have done a good job; that you’d fought for your country,” Mr Ogilvie said.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services Association president Di Ryder (64) rose to the rank of staff sergeant while in the army from 1974 to 1995.

“It gave me opportunities, and it reinforced what my parents taught me, including strong work ethics and strong respect for others,” Ms Ryder said.

She said young Aboriginal people should consider joining the armed services because they encourage self-discipline and the opportunity to “achieve whatever you put your mind to”.