About the project

The story of the Black diggers of Barambah-Cherbourg of World War 1

Since the Boer War (1899-1902) many Aboriginal men from all parts of Australia have fought alongside their non-Indigenous compatriots in wars around the world.

In World War 1 (1914-18) many Aboriginal people enlisted, travelled to the battlefronts across Europe and the Middle East, fought in the muddy trenches and in many cases died and were buried in those foreign lands.
The case of Barambah/Cherbourg is no different. Many of our men enlisted despite the many difficulties and barriers they faced, including extremely racist enlistment laws and procedures. Their stories of bravery, sacrifice, hardship and commitment are no different from the thousands of Australian men who went to make up the ANZAC legend. However, the story of the Boys from Barambah, just like numerous stories of Indigenous soldiers around the country, also tells of a dark underside of institutional racism, disrespect and bitterness.

The centenary anniversary of World War 1 gives us the opportunity to reflect and honour all Australian servicemen and women, and finally give our Indigenous servicemen the recognition they deserve.

The essence of the Boys from Barambah project is to help our community (in Cherbourg and the South Burnett) and the wider Australian community to remember and celebrate those Barambah/Cherbourg men who served in WW1, and acknowledge the commitment and strengths they showed to overcome the difficulties encountered. It is important to us to pass on the spirit of the ANZACs to the younger generations of Indigenous and non-Indigenous children.
The story of the Barambah Diggers has many lessons for us all: as the descendants of those proud warriors, as Indigenous peoples of this region and as Australians living 100 years after those momentous times.

This book locates the stories of the 47 Boys from Barambah who enlisted to fight in World War 1 within a number of themes:

  • Queensland at the end of the 19th Century, before the Barambah Settlement
  • Life under the first Aboriginal Protection Act (1897); the foundation of Barambah;
  • Racism and enlistment
  • Who were the Boys from Barambah?
  • Personal stories of war
  • Returned Indigenous servicemen
  • Return to life under the Act
  • Honouring the Boys from Barambah

The aims of the Boys from Barambah project are:

  • to inform the Cherbourg community about their forefathers who enlisted and who served in World War 1 and more widely, to celebrate the spirit of the ANZACs in our community;
  • to spread this knowledge and spirit to the public who are interested in our history and its place in the broader Australian story; and to provide a resource for schools to link relevant Indigenous studies with History, Civics and Citizenship, English and Modern History, catering for curriculum areas from Prep to grade 10.

We trust that this book and the other resources will help in providing the knowledge of and inspiring respect for those who gave so much.

The Cherbourg Memory is an initiative of the Rationshed Museum and brings together the photos, videos, oral history recordings, documents and other artifacts of our lives on this settlement. It a website, an archive, an educational resource, a recording project, a research data-base, a store of the people’s stories and an interactive space for comments and engagement. We encourage the people of Cherbourg, the Indigenous communities in Australia and others who have experience of our settlement to help us create a living archive of Barambah-Cherbourg. So find out a little more about the Cherbourg Memory, discover how you can Participate, or find out how you can Contribute to the development of the Cherbourg Memory.