Women at War

Indigenous women have made significant contributions both in peacetime and in war. Many of the books in this reading list discuss Indigenous women's contributions particularly those listed below.


Torres Strait Islander women and the Pacific War by Elizabeth Osborne.

Canberra : Aboriginal Studies Press for Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 1997 (in World War II – Books section).

Oodgeroo Noonuccal: Wireless Operator, Chapter 4 in Fighters from the Fringe by Robert Hall, Canberra : Aboriginal Studies Press , 1995 (in World War II books section).

Author, Robert Hall, interviewed Oodgeroo Noonuccal in 1986. In this chapter she speaks of why she joined the Australian Women's Army Service, her two brothers' being taken prisoners of war in Singapore, life in Brisbane and on Stradbroke Island during the war, and race relations..

Forgotten heroes : Aborigines at war from the Somme to Vietnam by Alick Jackomos and Derek Fowell, South Melbourne, Vic., Victoria Press , 1993 (in General – Book section).

A number of Victorian Aboriginal women tell of their experiences during the war. Some worked at the munitions factory at Maribyrnong. Women at Cummeragunja Mission knitted for troops and the Commeragunja Mission Church Choir formed concert parties to raise money for the war effort.

An Indigenous Nurse in World War 1

Marion Leane Smith is to date the only identified Indigenous woman to serve in the First World War. She is of Darug heritage and served not with the AIF but as a nurse with the British army. Her story is told by Philippa Scarlett on the Indigenous Histories blog.

Interviews with Indigenous women in the Army, Navy and Airforce can be found online at the Department of Defence website

Indigenous Women who contributed to war efforts from home

Studio portrait of Aboriginal servicewoman Lance Corporal Kathleen Jean Mary Walker, of Stradbroke Island, Queensland (later known as Oodgeroo Noonuccal). Lance Corporal Walker enlisted on 5 December 1942 and was discharged on 19 January 1944. She was a communication worker with the Australian Women's Army Service (AWAS).
Australian War Memorial: P01688.001.

Studio portrait of Aboriginal servicewoman Corporal Helen Annie McDonald, of Colac, Victoria. Corporal McDonald enlisted with the Australian /women's Army Servicer on 18 October 1943 and was discharged on 22 January 1946.
Australian War Memorial: P01651.001.

Lance Corporal Kathleen Jean Mary Walker
Lance Corporal Kathleen Jean Mary Walker
Corporal Helen Annie McDonald
Corporal Helen Annie McDonald
Portrait of Aboriginal women at Cummeragunja Government Mission
Portrait of Aboriginal women at Cummeragunja Government Mission

Group portrait of Aboriginal women and girls knitting socks, jumpers and balaclavas for the war effort at Cummeragunja Government Mission, NSW (opposite Barmah, Vic) on the Murray River. Identified, left to right, back row: Merle Morgan, June Morgan, Weeny Charles, Amy Briggs, Valda McGee, Edna Walker, Sheila Charles, Joan Charles, Elsie Cooper, Midge Walsh, Florry Walker. Front row: Joyce Atkinson, Clare Charles, Alma Charles, Ada Cooper, Nelly Davis?, Elizabeth Morgan, Lauraine Charles, Greta Cooper, Violet Charles, Wynnie Walker, Hilda Walker, Georgina Atkinson, Lydia Morgan, Reta Cooper, Maggie Weston
Australian War Memorial: P01562.001.

The Army established its own slaughter yards, cooling chambers and delivefry system about 40 miles north of Katherine, NT. Butchers from the Army resumed civil work on Army pay, and Aboriginal labour was used to bring the cattle into the slaughter yards. Aboriginal women were employed on light duties. This photo shows a group of women salting a hide. Negative: H. Turner
Australian War Memorial: 014287.
Female Aboriginal cooks of Knuckey's Bend Compound, Katherine, NT, being paid 25.9.1943. Photograph: William Donald Martin
Australian War Memorial: 057367.