The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Northern Australia were more affected by the Second World War than any other Indigenous community on the Australian home front. This bark painting by Paddy Fordham Wainburranga (1932–2006), was the Memorial’s first work of art by an Indigenous artist giving an Aboriginal perspective on the war.
The event depicted is based on Wainburranga’s childhood memories of men in his community being employed by the Army as labourers. Before the completion of the Stuart and Barkly highways the bulk of supplies for Army troops in Darwin arrived by ship. As a result of the wartime labour shortage and the increased demand for goods and services, Indigenous labour became indispensable to war activities.
Wainburranga was born in Bamdibu in Central Arnhem Land. He was an elder of the Mirraitja clan and the Rembarrnga language group, and was frequently called upon to participate in major ceremonies. He is well known for his paintings depicting Australia’s history of contact between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.