Part 1 of 7 – Uncle Karno’s introduction to the Military – the unveiling of the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander War Memorial – South Australia

On the 10th of November 2013 Uncle Karno visited the city centre of Adelaide to witness the unveiling of the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander War Memorial at the Torrens Parade Ground.

While at the unveiling of this War Memorial he met with, and struck up what was to become a close spiritual connection with Uncle Colin Watego.

Warrant Officer Class One (Uncle) Colin Watego OAM (Retired), was at the War Memorial Unveiling in an official capacity as the Australian Army’s Indigenous representative to lay a wreath in recognition for contribution of service on behalf of serving and ex-serving Indigenous soldiers.

Uncle Colin went on to work with Uncle Karno for many years. During that time there were a number of significant Spiritual Ceremonies involving Uncle Karno as the Ramindjeri Elder and Senior Officers of the Australian Defence Force.

This page will concentrate on this day, the events leading up to, and including, Uncle Karno’s first official ceremony with the Australian Defence Force which occurred a few months after Uncle Karno had met Uncle Colin at this event.

The Governor General Quentin Bryce gave a moving speech about the service of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders  servicemen and woman, which included Uncle Karno’s ancestor, the brave First Nations Warriors, Private Arthur Thomas Walker.

She talked about how Private Walker gave his own life rescuing other soldiers injured on the battlefield, and how Private Walker’s remains were buried, and still remain in France.

Uncle Karno was thankful for the moving words Governor General Quentin Bryce gave to honour his ancestor and was determined to meet her and thank her for her kind words.

The picture on the left shows Uncle Karno shaking the Governor General’s hands.

Uncle Karno and Warrant Officer Class One, Colin Watego flanked by two Canadian Defence Force Veterans (in Maroon Jackets) Richard Blackwolf the head of the Canadian Aboriginal Veterans and Serving Members Association is on the right.

Link to the South Australian Government’s official page for the unveiling ceremony of the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander War Memorial.

Part 2.1 of 7 – Uncle Karno’s involvement  with the Indigenous Pre-Recruitment Course

About the Indigenous Pre-Recruitment Course.

At the time Uncle Karno had met Uncle Colin in 2013, Uncle Colin, as the ADF Senior Indigenous Recruitment Officer, and Major General Michael Fairweather RDF AM, as the official Indigenous Patron of the Australian Army, were both involved with the design and delivery of an ADF Indigenous Pathway Initiative called the Indigenous Pre-Recruitment Course. Major General Fairweather was also Chair of the Army Indigenous Cultural Advisory Board.

The aim of the 8 week IPRC employment initiative is to prepare Indigenous Australians for the recruiting process and a long and rewarding career in the Navy, Army or Air Force. This initiative was also designed to close the gap in Indigenous Employment outcomes.

Official Coursebook introduction by Major General Fairweather RDF AM, and Warrant Officer Class One, Colin Watego OAM (Bundjalung & Torres Strait Islander descendant)

The Late Major General Fairweather RDF AM (Retired)


Warrant Officer Class One, Colin Watego OAM (Retired)


Part 2.2 of 7 – The Indigenous Pre-Recruitment Course Graduation Dinners

Uncle Karno Walker, and his wife Aunty Christine as honoured guests and mentors at IPRC Graduation Dinners.

After the Unveiling of the Aboriginal War Memorial at the Torrens Parade Ground in Adelaide on the 10th of November, Uncle Karno and Uncle Colin kept in touch.

Uncle Col, being aware of Uncle Karno’s passion to see our Indigenous youth excel, respectfully invited Uncle Karno & Aunty Christine to attend the Graduation Dinners of the Adelaide Indigenous Pre-Recruitment Courses.

Aunty Christine and Uncle Colin discuss these dinners, and Uncle Karno’s connection to the Australian Military in these two interviews below.

Part 3 of 7 – Presentation of Message Stick from Uncle Karno to Major General Fairweather RDF AM at IPRC Graduation Dinner in June 2014

At the IPRC Graduation Dinner in June 2014 both Uncle Karno and Aunty Christine were present yet again. It is also important to note that both Karno and Christine were present at all of the graduation dinners held during the time the IPRC was being run in Adelaide. Karno and Christine looked forward to all of these dinners and enjoyed them as much as the graduates and ADF personnel did. 

Perhaps for those that don’t know much about Aboriginal Culture it might be best to get a quick overview of how important the Message Stick is to the Aboriginal people. Fellow committee member Steven Strong has written an informative and concise description about this subject which is quoted from Steve and Evan Strong’s website;

Axe-heads, pituri plant, ochre, baler shells and many other valuable tools and resources were traded throughout the country, often found thousands of kilometres from their point of origin. Trade and movement took place through agreed passageways and there were formalities in passage across unfamiliar lands. Within each tribe a few were chosen whose task it was to learn as many of the neighbouring tribes tongues as possible, this was an important role as the person who carried the message stick was fundamental in keeping harmony with those who lived nearby. In an oral society fostering good relations could only come about through clear communication and a full understanding of another point of view.

As you can see from what Steve Strong has written above, the passing of a Message Stick is an important part of diplomacy in Aboriginal Culture. I have no doubt Uncle Karno would have had many discussions with Major General Fairweather about this. 

This presentation formed the basis of a much stronger relationship between Uncle Karno, the Ramindjeri Tribe and the Australian Defence Force and would lead to collaboration with the ADF on Honouring Warrior Spirit and the sharing of the longstanding traditions of Military Culture and the richness of our Ancient Aboriginal Traditional Culture. 

The Wirritjin Peggera:lin Committee would like to make it known to the ADF and Major General Fairweather’s family and friends that those of us that had the opportunity and privilege to work with Major General Fairweather RDF AM, felt honoured to do so. I am sure the Indigenous communities around Australia that have worked with him also feel the same, he brought a lot of wisdom and leadership, as well as respect to all of the indigenous communities he interacted with. 

The Wirritjin Peggera:lin committee would like to invite you to learn more about Uncle Karno and the Ramindjeri people’s special relationship with the Australian Defence Force by visiting the links below.

Part 4 of 7 Australian Defence Force – Honouring Warrior Spirit Ceremony and Documentary

This part of our website documents the important role Uncle Karno and Uncle Colin Watego had in working with Sgt John Angel Hands and the ADF’s vision for the Honouring Warrior Spirit Ceremonies in Lone Pine Cemetery Canberra and Gallipoli, Turkey that formed the Honouring Warrior Spirit documentary. Please click the link below to read more…

Honouring Warrior Spirits

Part 5.1 of 7 Black Anzac – 2014 Documentary

This part of our website documents the documentary about the photograph of Uncle Karno and Uncle Peter Mansfield’s ancestor who was the photographic inspiration for the Black Anzac Documentary. Please click the link below to read more…

Black Anzac Documentary – Private Alfred Cameron Jr – Private Arthur Thomas Walker

Part 5.2 of 7 Black Anzacs Memorial – Anzac day 2015 & 2021 Permanent Memorial

This part of our website documents the artwork at Meningie that Hego had put up for Anzac Day in 2015 and the permanent Memorial inspired by Hego’s artwork that was put up in 2021.

The Meningie ANZAC Memorial – Honouring Aunty Meryl and the late Uncle Peter Mansfield

Part 6 of 7 – August 1 2014 – Presentation and Gift Exchange at Victor Harbour

Uncle Karno’s gift exchange with the ADF at Victor Harbour honouring his ancestor who fought in World War One and the gift the ADF received of Ramindjeri Cultural artefacts. Please click on the link below to read more…

Wirritjin Peggera:lin Ceremony with the Ramindjeri people and the Australian Army

Part 7 of 7 – ADF presentation of Ramindjeri Artwork to Aunty Christine and Aunty Unbulara – 2017

This part of the website showcases the Ramindjeri artwork that was used in the Honouring Warrior Spirit Documentary in 2014. Please click on the link below to read more…

ADF presentation of Ramindjeri Artwork to Aunty Christine and Aunty Unbulara