Part 1 of 6 – How World War One helped forge Australia’s identity and Australia’s most sacred holiday – Anzac Day

ANZAC Day – the foundation Honouring Warrior Spirits was built upon

The ADF (Australian Defence Force) Honouring Warrior Spirit project was borne out of another project that was in the planning stages in 2013. This project was the 100 year commemoration of the ANZAC Gallipoli campaign during World War One.

To understand the importance of the “Honouring Warrior Spirits” ADF project, it is important to first understand what ANZAC day means to all Australians, and how this National Holiday came about.

Churchill’s plan to win World War One

Due to the already large losses the British Empire had sustained during the previous year on the battlefields of France. Winston Churchill, the 1st Lord of the British Admiralty proposed another strategy to help bring  World War One  to an end. Britain had already lost a million servicemen in France, Britain’s only battlefront, Churchill proposed opening up another battlefront 1000 miles away in Turkey. Churchill’s plan was to decimate the Turkish Ottoman Empire to clear the way to warm water ports in the Black Sea so that a year round supply route to Russia could be made, and also clear the passage to the Suez Canal to supply the Allies in Asia which Turkey had also blocked.

On paper Churchill’s plan looked difficult, but achievable as the Turkish Ottoman Empire was seen by most of Europe as an Empire in decline. The reason for this perceived difficulty was the strategic high positions held by the Turkish on the cliff’s of the Gallipoli Peninsula. Soldiers landing on the beaches of Gallipoli would be strafed with fire from the Turk’s on the cliff’s above, making this battlefield a battle of attrition.

More than 50,000 Australian and 17,000 New Zealander’s fought at Gallipoli, 8000 Australian and 2000 New Zealand soldiers never made it home. Many of those soldiers were buried at Lone Pine Cemetery in Anzac Cove Gallipoli (ANZAC is the acronym of the Australia New Zealand Army Corp).

A new and more powerful identity for the nations of Australia, New Zealand and Turkey

This conflict was burnt into the consciousness of the people of Turkey, and the people of Australia and New Zealand, and helped forge a new and powerful national identity for all three countries. For Turkey this battle inspired them to fight for Turkey to become an independent Republic.

For Australia and New Zealand, both newly formed countries just prior to the World War One conflict, the pain of the loss of life and the great respect for the bravery their soldiers had shown helped form the backbone of the National Identity of these 2 countries.

For Australians and New Zealanders ANZAC day is their most sacred National Holiday with many travelling to War Memorials for the Dawn Service held on that day,  or make a pilgrimage to the Anzac Cove Dawn Service in Gallipoli, Turkey. This holiday is seen by Australians as a rite of passage that made what was then a new nation, truly a nation.”>

Part 2 of 6 – ANZAC DAY – The Genesis of Honouring Warrior Spirits

Sargent John Angel Hands ANZAC Ceremony Proposal to the Australian Defence Force

In 2013 during the planning stages for the 100 year commemoration of the Gallipoli World War One campaign, Sergeant John Angel Hands of the Australian Army brought a proposal to his superiors.

This proposal was eventually called Honouring Warrior Spirits and it was to become an Australian Army – Aboriginal led, spiritual ceremony to help call Aboriginals who fell at Gallipoli during World War One, back to their Tribal Lands.

Sergeant John Angel Hands and many other Aboriginal personnel within the Australian Military saw this as an extremely important spiritual ceremony. In Aboriginal Spirituality (The Dreamtime) the unseen world of the creator/spirits is held within the landscape.

Because of this being buried on your tribal lands is the most sacred thing in Aboriginal Spirituality.

The dreaming is in the landscape, to be buried elsewhere than your tribal lands is to lose connection to your ancestor spirits and the spiritual dreaming of your land.

Hundreds of Aboriginal soldiers died at Gallipoli during World War One, their remains now lying in a foreign country , oceans away from their Tribal Lands.

The aim of Honouring Warrior Spirits is to call the spirits of these fallen Aboriginal Soldiers back home, back to their Ancestors, and the dreaming of their country.

More information on the importance and sacredness of Tribal Burial to Aboriginal Australian Spirituality can be seen in this article below.

Bringing back remains from Europe

Identifying and returning the remains of those who were buried in marked graves back to their country is something that can only be done with the permission of the Tribes those soldiers belonged to. Many graves of the fallen at Gallipoli are also unmarked.

Honouring Warrior Spirits is about helping the spirits of those soldiers whose remains who may never be brought home find a way back to their dreaming.

This spiritual ceremony was also recorded on film and was included in a documentary with the same name, Honouring Warrior Spirits.

Quote from Honouring Warrior Spirits Documentary

“In traditional Aboriginal Society, death is a time when a spirit is released from the physical body to rejoin the unseen world and returned to it’s source.”

You can watch the documentary “Honouring Warrior Spirits in full below;

Part 3 of 6 – Uncle Karno’s & The Ramindjeri’s involvement with Honouring Warrior Spirits

The Beginning – The Victor Harbour Ceremony

Ramindjeri Elder Uncle Karno’s involvement with the Honouring Warrior Spirits Documentary began in 2014 with a spiritual ceremony held on the last known camping ground of the Ramindjeri at Kent Reserve (Murewang), Victor Harbour .

This spiritual ceremony was a Wirritjin Peggera:lin ceremony (Blackfella/Whitefella dreaming together) involving the exchanging of gifts between Uncle Karno and the Australian Army. The two most important gifts exchanged during this ceremony was a plague commemorating Private Arthur Walker’s service during World War One and a Kangaroo Skin with Wirritjin Peggera:lin (Blackfella/Whitefella Dreaming together)

Present at the ceremony where the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO, Sargent John Angel Hands (Honouring Warrior Spirits Founder), Warrant Officer Class One Colin Watego OAM (Retired – Current Wirritjin Peggera:lin  Committee Member)

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

Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO holds up a traditional kangaroo skin warrior's cloak presented by Uncle Karno Walker, representing the Ramindjeri people of Kangaroo Island. Mr Walker displays framed memorabilia of his Great Uncle Private Arthur Thomas Walker, who was killed on the Western Front in 1916
Sergeant John Angel-Hands with the Four Direction Stick presented to him by the Ramindjeri people, Uncle Karno Walker and Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO with the kangaroo skin warrior's cloak, and Warrant Officer Class One Colin Watego with the Eagle Feather

Uncle Karno and the Ramindjeri Tribes involvement with the design of the Honouring Warrior Spirits Ceremony

Once the “Honouring Warrior Spirits” project was taken on board by the ADF (Australain Defence Force) the Army Indigenous Cultural Advisory Group was then tasked with the designing of the Spiritual Ceremony. This design process was a collaboration with a number of tribal people’s across Australia.

Uncle Colin Watego (Warrant Officer Class One – Order of Australia Medal – Retired – Current Wirritjin Peggera:lin Executive Committee Member) was a member of the Army Indigenous Cultural Advisory Group and a participant in the design of this Ceremony.

Uncle Karno helped come up with the Ramindjeri Artwork that was painted on the Yidaki (Didgeridoo) that was used at the ceremony to call Warrior Spirits Home.

Uncle Karno also wrote the speech that Uncle Colin Watego (WO1 – OAM) spoke at the Honouring Warrior Spirits Ceremony held on Gallipoli and in Canberra.

The Ramindjeri language was one of the two Indigenous languages chosen to be spoken during the Honouring Warrior Spirits Ceremony in Gallipoli.

The ADF made a presentation of some of this artwork to Wirritjin Peggera:lin committee founder Christine Walker, and Uncle Karno’s Aunt, Unbulara on the 3rd of November 2017.

ADF presentation of Ramindjeri Artwork to Aunty Christine and Aunty Unbulara

Part 4 of 6 – Bringing the sacred soil back home

The design of this ceremony by the Army Indigenous Cultural Advisory group also included an important element to allow this spiritual ceremony to continue on well into the future for the Tribes of Australia who wish to honour the warrior spirits of the soldiers who fell for their country.

As part of Honouring Warrior Spirits project a spiritual ceremony was held at Gallipoli, Turkey by Aboriginal elders and Aboriginal Soldiers to consecrate some of the soil from the area where fallen Aboriginal soldiers where buried. This soil was then shipped back to Australia from Turkey where it was then placed on consecrated ground in a Military Cemetery in the capital of Australia, Canberra.

Tribes across Australia have the permission from the Elders of the Tribal Lands this cemetery is located on, and the Australian Army to collect some of this soil and bring it back to their tribal country for their own healing ceremony. 

Part 5 of 6 – The Legacy of Honouring Warrior Spirit Continues

In 2022 Australian Broadcaster SBS released a 3 part documentary Series called “The Australian Wars”. This documentary by acclaimed Director Rachel Perkins, daughter of Aboriginal Activist Charles Perkins, goes into the unacknowledged history of conflict between Aboriginal Australians and European settlers during the colonisation and creation of the nation of Australia.

This documentary about Australia’s violent past and the beginning of RSL Associations as well as the Australian Defence Force beginning to recognise that past, shows the next stage of the healing of our Country.

 RSL Tasmania’s President Robert Dick has said he supports a memorial to the Black War and a leading academic has said such a memorial would be “a hugely significant moment in the history of the Australia.”

Links to the Australian War Documentary aired by SBS on Demand (Australian Audiences only) and NITV’s The Point article about RSL President Robert Dick’s Frontier War Memorial are below.

Part 6 of 6 – Uncle Karno’s connection with the Australian Military

Uncle Karno’s connection to the Australian Military extends beyond Honouring Warrior Spirit. This article from our website goes into this history in greater detail.

Uncle Karno’s connection to the Australian Military