Contact Martin

Telephone: +61 8  8271 6448
Fax: +61 8  8373 3158

Media Releases

The spirit of Aboriginal WWI digger finally going home

Monday, 06 March 2017

A State Government grant will help the family of Aboriginal World War I digger Miller Mack, who died in 1919, conduct a special service that will see his remains reinterred, with full military honours, at his home at the Raukkan community, near the Murray Mouth.

For almost a century, 25-year-old Private Mack’s remains lay in an unmarked grave at West Terrace Cemetery following his death from an illness contracted during his service in WWI.

The State Government has granted $2500 to the Aboriginal Veterans of South Australia (AVSA) to hold the service on March 24.

Background

2949 Private Miller Mack was buried in Adelaide's West Terrace Cemetery in 1919, after dying from an illness he contracted during battle.

Private Mack grew up in the South Australian Aboriginal community of Raukkan, near the Murray Mouth and, like many other Indigenous men, joined the Armed Forces. He enlisted with 20 other young Ngarrindjeri men from the Point McLeay mission. In 1915 he served in the 50th Battalion.

While fighting on the Western Front in 1917, Private Mack endured the worst European winter on record to that point. He endured Phosgene gas attacks, experiencing pulmonary oedema, skin lesions, blurred vision and burning to his throat and eyes before evacuation and repatriation to England on the 17th July 1918, with sever bronchial pneumonia leading eventually to tuberculosis. Private Mack died from the illness in Adelaide in 1919.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Martin Hamilton-Smith

Australians tend not to be overly praiseworthy and we shy away from using terms such as hero, but Miller Mack and his colleagues were certainly heroes.

These men endured incredibly harsh conditions, fought and died for our freedom before they were recognised as citizens. When their country called, they answered and while they were embraced by their fellow soldiers regardless of their race, religion, or upbringing, they were shunned by the authorities when they returned at wars end.

The return of Private Miller Mack to his home in the Raukkan community is a fitting, if belated, outcome that will see this Australian hero returned to his family.