Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Indigenous Soldier Recognised

Captain Reg Saunders’ daughters Dorothy Burton, Glenda Humes and Judith Standen inside the gallery named after their father. Photo: Graham Tidy.

Emma Kelly, Australian War Memorial gallery named in honour of Indigenous soldier Reg Saunders, Canberra Times, 11 November 2015

Reg Saunders’ daughter Glenda Humes remembers walking down the aisles of a supermarket in country Victoria as a young girl, surrounded by shoppers high-fiving her father.

He was a talented Australian rules footballer, she said.

Captain Reginald Walter ‘Reg’ Saunders was also the first indigenous Australian to be commissioned as an officer in the Australian Army and is arguably the country’s best known Aboriginal soldier.

Now, Captain Saunders is set to become perhaps, even more recognisable.
After the major crowds had cleared from the Australian War Memorial on a rainy Remembrance Day in Canberra, about 70 of the late serviceman’s family gathered for the opening of the Captain Reg Saunders Gallery and Courtyard – the first space inside the memorial to be named after any Australian.

Captain Saunders served in the Middle East, Greece, Crete and New Guinea during the Second World War, before serving in the Korean War as captain of the third battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment.

Through his service in the Australian Defence Force and later with the Office of Aboriginal Affairs, he is also remembered as a strong advocate for breaking down discrimination against Indigenous Australians.

Memorial director Brendan Nelson described the former Western Gallery as a place “where some of the most emotional and transformative things have occurred in my almost three year tenure here”.

He said the memorial’s council voted unanimously to name the space after Captain Saunders.

“Only one person is going to have his name on anything inside the Australian War Memorial – that’s Reg Saunders,” Dr Nelson said.

“This is not some quiet corner of the museum.”
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