“You got nothing on us,” a high-school student was reported as saying to volunteer staff at the Australian Army Museum of Western Australia, in Fremantle, after touring two floors of gallery space.

It’s a sentiment that has stuck with the dedicated but thinly stretched curatorial team who are currently working with WAITOC to improve indigenous representation in its displays.

There are stories of sacrifice and resilience that need to be told; stories that can inspire a young generation in need of representation and recognition, stories like that of Reg Saunders, MBE.

Reg was the first Aboriginal man to be commissioned into the Australian army in 1945.

RegSaundersfromAnzacPortal.jpgHe is pictured here with Tom Derrick, VC, DCM; they are congratulating each other after graduating from the Officer Cadet Training Unit at Seymour, Victoria, on 25 November, 1944. According to the Australian War Memorial, Reg wept when he heard the news of Tom's death shortly before the end of the war.

Following the outbreak of the Korean War, Reg rejoined the army in 1950 as a Platoon Commander. In 1951, he was promoted to Captain and commanded C Company 3rd Battalion in the Battle of Kapyong. Reg was first Aboriginal to command a rifle company and was well respected by his men.

His many medals are on display in the Reg Saunders Gallery at the Australian War Memorial.

If you’d like to trace the military records of your family members, simply click here. The National Archives of Australia has digitised most of its records so you can access information about relatives without even having a service number – a last name is all you will need.

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