To mark the eve of the centenary of the First World War, Sydney Festival presented Black Diggers, a play that uncovers the contribution of First World War Aboriginal Diggers, following their exceptional stories from their homelands to the battlefields of Gallipoli, Palestine and Flanders.
Drawing upon new research and extensive consultation, the play features nine men representing the Aboriginal diggers who fought for Australia during the First World War. Dr David Williams, an Honorary Associate at the University and researcher for the production, says 450,000 Australians enlisted for WWI and of those, 1000 were Aboriginal.
“This figure is significant because we have actively forgotten their service,” says Williams. “We have had a lot of difficulty trying to locate their names, documents, photos and family stories. We wanted to find out about their life before the war, during the war and after the war.”
The play’s director, Wesley Enoch, says that in the centenary year of the anniversary of the First World War, it is no accident that the first major public project is about indigenous soldiers.
Dr Williams says: “We hope it provokes the desire for everyone who sees it to find out more because these stories deserve remembering.”