Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Military Service in the Second World War

  • Noah Riseman Australian Catholic University


During the Second World War, approximately 4,000 Aboriginal and 850 Torres Strait Islander people served in the Australian military. They enlisted notwithstanding a formal colour bar and withstanding over a century of dispossession, discrimination and exclusion. In northern Australia, which doubled as a frontline in 1942-43, remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people also made contributions to the war effort in both formal and informal capacities. This article looks at the many dimensions of Indigenous contributions to the war effort, explaining the dominant narratives of Indigenous war participation while also exploring the diversity of Indigenous perspectives and experiences.

Author Biography

Noah Riseman, Australian Catholic University

Noah Riseman is an Associate Professor of History at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne. He specialises in histories of race, gender and sexuality, including Indigenous and LGBTI people in the military. He is the co-author of Indigenous Peoples and the Second World War: The Politics, Experiences and Legacies of War in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (with R. Scott Sheffield, 2019); Defending Country: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Military Service since 1945 (with Richard Trembath, 2016); and Serving in Silence? Australian LGBT Servicemen and Women (with Shirleene Robinson and Graham Willett, 2018).