Over 400 Indigenous Australians served in the First World War and 6,000 either enlisted or supported the Army in the Second World War. Torres Strait Islanders made a particularly significant contribution with the formation of the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion.
Formed in 1943 the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion helped protect Australia's northern coastline from Japanese attack. Around 700 men used local knowledge to make a vital contribution to defensive operations, while some employed their culinary experience with the local marine life to help sustain thousands of troops in the area.
Up to 50 tribal Yolngu men from East Arnhem Land were recruited for this unit in 1941. With their ability to live off the land they were highly mobile, and they used traditional bushcraft and fighting skills to patrol the coastal area and provide an early warning of Japanese attack during World War II.
The first RFSUs were formed in the early 1980s, allowing members of Indigenous communities to make a valuable contribution to defending Australia's remote areas. Units currently operating include the North West Mobile Force (NORFORCE), 51st Battalion Far North Queensland Regiment (51FNQR) and the Pilbara Regiment; and their Indigenous members regularly share their unique skills and local knowledge with regular Army units.
Oodgeroo Noonuccal, also known as Kath Walker, served in the Australian Women's Service during the Second World War and later participated in the Army's rehabilitation scheme by training in secretarial work and bookkeeping. She went on to become one of Australia's most respected and admired poets, educators and political activists.