This project on Aboriginal soldiers hits a personal note

Dr Jackie Huggins has been presented with the Bettison and James Award for her book and research about the history of Aboriginal soldiers in World Wars 1 and 2.

Established in 2015, the Bettison and James Award celebrates and recognises bodies of work that have made an important contribution to broader Australian society.

Dr Huggins’ book adds to a lifelong body of work that has seen her publish widely on Indigenous Australian issues, history and women’s studies for over four decades.

Currently co-chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, she also has significant experience across government, academia and community, having served on a substantial number of advisory boards, commissions, committees and inquiries.

Dr Huggins often works in spaces of reconciliation, domestic and family violence, Indigenous education and employment, and the prison and corrections system.

“I am humbled by the award and it is motivating to know that we would like to bring to light the issues and details of the Aboriginal soldiers who were martyred during the World Wars,” Dr Huggins said.

In February, she had the opportunity to travel abroad to build upon her research.

Dr Huggins visited Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia with Aboriginal descendants of prisoners of war as part of the Australian War Memorial Project.

With a background in Aboriginal military history herself, Dr Huggins’ book also hits a personal note.

Her grandfather John Henry Huggins I was a World War One soldier who was wounded twice fighting in Belgium.

John Henry Huggins II, her father, was a World War Two prisoner of war on the Thailand-Burma Railway.

He died of war injuries aged 38, leaving Dr Huggins and her siblings to be raised by her mother.

“It is a project close to my heart and I am thankful to the Bettison and James Foundation for furthering research in the area,” Dr Huggins said.

By Hannah Cross

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