Skip to main content


Anzac Day Ceremony – Bendigo RSL

By 27/04/2024June 27th, 2024No Comments

Dja Dja Wurrung Elder Uncle Graham Atkinson gave a Welcome to Country at the Bendigo District RSL Anzac Day Commemorative Service this year, in a first for Bendigo.

Uncle Graham is a Vietnam veteran and founding member and Elder of the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation.


Uncle Graham’s speech

Good morning, my name is Graham Atkinson, I am a Vietnam veteran and founding member and Elder of the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation.

I’d like to welcome you all onto this land, the land of my Dja Dja Wurrung Ancestors, this Anzac Day.

Welcoming ceremonies have been performed by my Ancestors on this land for thousands of years, as a way to greet visitors and offer safe passage across Country.

I understand that this is the first time a Dja Dja Wurrung Elder has delivered a Welcome at this Anzac service.

I sincerely thank the Bendigo RSL for their invitation to me, also as a returned serviceman, who, as part of his national service training in 1968 to 1970, served in south Vietnam from 1969 to 1970, and who wears his medals with pride.

This is an important symbol of our shared community’s journey towards reconciliation.

Anzac Day is an important day for all of us to remember and reflect on the sacrifice of the men and women who have fought for this Country, and served in other overseas conflicts, and I thank you all for coming today in that spirit.

I would also invite you to particularly reflect on the many First Nations People who have fought for this Country.

Prior to, and since Federation, First Nations People have fought in every conflict Australia has faced, including the Boer War.

The War Memorial estimates more than 1000 First Nations People served in World War I – including 70 at Gallipoli, the battle that saw the beginning of our Anzac tradition.

They volunteered and fought even when they were not obligated to enlist because of their race.

Unlike their non-Indigenous comrades, they often came home to a nation that did not recognise them, that held them on missions and barred them from public spaces – even from becoming members of the RSL.

Aboriginal veterans were prevented from accessing returned soldier assistance schemes, which provided other returning soldiers with job opportunities and land – farming blocks that were on Aboriginal traditional lands.

Dja Dja Wurrung people, and First Nations People across Australia, have a long tradition of fighting for Country. The word Country has a few meanings for Dja Dja Wurrung and other First Nations Peoples.

As for all of us here, it means this beautiful land we now call Australia.

But for us it’s more than a landscape, more than what you can see in front of you. It is a living entity that holds the stories of creation and histories that can’t be erased.

Our Ancestors looked after this Country for thousands of years and we are duty bound to do the same.

I look forward to sharing this morning with you, as a proud veteran and a proud Dja Dja Wurrung man.