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THE UN­VAR­NISHED TRUTH OF SERV­ING YOUR COUN­TRY

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WHEN Gary Wil­son was res­cued from a Black Hawk he­li­copter that crashed in Afghanistan three and a half years years ago, he was try­ing to crawl away from the wreck­age. But the Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions sol­dier could not go far be­cause he was barely con­scious and badly wounded. His left foot, knee and fore­arm, his ribs, pelvis, fin­gers, nose and jaw had been crushed in the dev­as­tat­ing ac­ci­dent. ‘‘ I broke pretty much the left-hand side of my body,’’ is how the sig­naller would later de­scribe his cat­a­logue of in­juries.

Wil­son was car­ried, in en­velop­ing dark­ness, to a res­cue he­li­copter and quickly lapsed into a coma. Ten weeks on, when he swam back to groggy con­scious­ness, he was con­vinced he was a pris­oner of the Tal­iban rather than a pa­tient strapped to a hos­pi­tal bed in Syd­ney. Again, he had one im­pulse — to flee. He tried to make a run for it, but he couldn’t walk, let alone sprint. ‘‘ I couldn’t bal­ance so I smashed my face into the floor and split my lip,’’ he re­calls, his ac­count so pre­cise and com­posed he might be de­scrib­ing a se­ries of calami­ties that hap­pened to some­one else.

Now based in Can­berra, the lance corporal with the black-framed, Clark Kent-style glasses and easy, con­fid­ing man­ner nar­rowly sur­vived one of Aus­tralia’s worst mil­i­tary catas­tro­phes in Afghanistan — the 2010 crash of a NATO he­li­copter that claimed four of his com­rades and se­ri­ously in­jured eight Coali­tion troops.Yet when asked about the worst as­pects of his three tours of duty to East Ti­mor and Afghanistan, the 32-year-old replies un­hesi­tat­ingly: ‘‘ Worst thing prob­a­bly — mates dy­ing.’’ He also men­tions sep­a­ra­tion from his fam­ily and fi­ancee, Re­nee (whom he has since mar­ried). ‘‘ Ev­ery­one pretty much lies to each other on the phone,’’ he re­veals. ‘‘ If you’re hav­ing a bad day, you say, ‘ Honey ev­ery­thing’s great, we’re as safe as houses.’ ’’

What the self-ef­fac­ing sol­dier con­spic­u­ously omits to men­tion is that he al­most died in that he­li­copter crash in north­ern Kandahar. He suf­fered a brain in­jury, his foot and arm had to be re­con­structed, and he has been through the slow grind of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion — a word he strug­gles to pro­nounce as the ac­ci­dent left him with a speech im­ped­i­ment.

De­spite this dis­abil­ity, Wil­son has signed up for a bold ex­per­i­ment, a new play called The Long Way Home, to be co-pro­duced by the Syd­ney The­atre Com­pany and the Aus­tralian De­fence Force. For this his­toric project, he and other in­jured ser­vice­men and women will ap­pear on stage along­side pro­fes­sional ac­tors to talk about the phys­i­cal and pyscho­log­i­cal trau­mas they have en­dured while on op­er­a­tions in Iraq, Afghanistan and East Ti­mor. Wil­son is one of 12 sol­diers, from pri­vate to bri­gadier, who will per­form in this semi-fic­tion­alised drama by Mel­bourne play­wright Daniel Keene, which draws heav­ily on the per­sonal sto­ries of Aus­tralian sol­diers who have served in some of the planet’s most trou­bled places.

The Long Way Home is one of two large-scale the­atre works be­ing staged this sum­mer to mark the cen­te­nary of the start of World War I; it opens in Syd­ney on Fe­bru­ary 7 and will tour na­tion­ally. The sec­ond work, Black Dig­gers, is a $1 mil­lion co-pro­duc­tion be­tween the Syd­ney Fes­ti­val and Queens­land The­atre Com­pany; it opens at the fes­ti­val on Jan­uary 17 and in Bris­bane in Septem­ber. Writ­ten by Tom Wright

EV­ERY­ONE AS­SUMES THAT BE­ING WOUNDED IS LIKE IN THE MOVIES, THAT A BUL­LET GOES THROUGH THEM AND THEY KEEP GO­ING . . . THE VAST MA­JOR­ITY OF OUR WOUNDS ARE LONG-TERM

LANCE CORPORAL GARY WIL­SON

in close col­lab­o­ra­tion with in­dige­nous di­rec­tor Wes­ley Enoch, this in­ten­sively re­searched play high­lights the largely un­sung con­tri­bu­tion of Abo­rig­i­nal troops in World War I. If Black Dig­gers is an act of his­tor­i­cal awak­en­ing, re­claim­ing the of­ten-ne­glected nar­ra­tive of in­dige­nous sol­diers who risked their lives for a coun­try that re­garded them as non-cit­i­zens, The Long Way Home is a highly emo­tive ven­ture be­tween un­likely al­lies: the mil­i­tary and the na­tion’s largest the­atre com­pany.

Ini­ti­ated by David Hur­ley, Chief of the De­fence Force, its pur­pose is twofold: to speed the re­cov­ery of the in­jured sol­diers tak­ing part, and to give au­di­ences un­var­nished in­sights into how our fight­ing men and women en­dure long-term and per­ma­nent in­juries in the name of serv­ing their coun­try. Among the sol­dier­sturned-thes­pi­ans are those who have seen mates blown up or fail to re­turn from mis­sions that were meant to be rou­tine. One sergeant was badly in­jured when a rocket ex­ploded in her sleep­ing quar­ters; another has photo- graphed 28 fu­ner­als and cer­e­monies for de­ceased troops — the coffins draped with the Aus­tralian flag broke her heart, ev­ery time.

Oth­ers have spent their adult lives be­liev­ing they are Te­flon-coated and have been un­able to ad­mit to them­selves, let alone their bosses or loved ones, when they are in psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tress.

Wil­son’s re­cov­ery was ar­du­ous, to say the least. ‘‘ I had to learn to do ev­ery­thing,’’ he ex­plains calmly. ‘‘ My wife says it was like watch­ing an in­fant all over again. I had to learn how to breathe by my­self. I had to learn how to chew and swal­low by my­self and my speech, I still go to re­hab for that.’’ He re-learned how to drive, and was told he might never walk or run — he now does both. He was di­ag­nosed ear­lier this year with de­pres­sion, but only af­ter his wife forced him to see a psy­chol­o­gist.

‘‘ I was in de­nial,’’ he says, cross­ing his arms de­fen­sively. ‘‘ Ev­ery­one as­sumes that be­ing wounded is like in the movies, that a bul­let goes through them and they keep go­ing. They as­sume that within six weeks they’re back to 100 per cent. The vast ma­jor­ity of our wounds are long-term.’’

Wil­son re­veals that when he was asked to do the show, ‘‘ I wasn’t too con­fi­dent about speak­ing pub­licly, with my voice the way it is. I thought it would be quite dif­fi­cult.’’ How­ever, af­ter work­ing in­ten­sively with STC voice coach Charmian Grad­well, his speech im­proved dra­mat­i­cally. Af­ter the ac­ci­dent, he avoided talk­ing to peo­ple who weren’t close friends or fam­ily — a bar­maid once re­fused to serve him, as­sum­ing he was drunk be­cause of his slurred speech. He says: ‘‘ I’m braver now. I can walk up and speak to peo­ple that I don’t know.’’

So it is that on a late spring morn­ing, Wil­son and 14 other sol­diers find them­selves in an STC re­hearsal room, do­ing warm-up voice and move­ment classes. (Twelve of the 15 workshop par­tic­i­pants will ap­pear in the fi­nal show.) There is an unas­sum­ing stee­li­ness about this bat­tle-scarred band of brothers and sis­ters, most of whom are still serv­ing in the army. Yet in this large, open room built above the ed­dies and back­wash of Syd­ney Har­bour, they sing scales and hum sen­su­ous melodies, beat time with one hand, re­leas­ing ten­sion in their shoul­ders, eyes and jaws. In pairs, they per­form a sur­pris­ingly con­fronting eye con­tact ex­er­cise — who will break first? — be­fore mov­ing on to a kind of pass-the-par­cel, trans­fer­ring sim­ple ges­tures and breathy ex­cla­ma­tions from one per­son to another.

A mid­dle-aged sol­dier with a buzz cut, Den­nis Ram­say lost both his feet to a lifethreat­en­ing blood in­fec­tion but con­tin­ues to work for the army as a war­rant of­fi­cer. His thin, ar­ti­fi­cial legs are thrust into run­ning shoes and he dis­plays an ex­tra­or­di­nary agility dur­ing a manic game of tip, weav­ing and spin­ning away from his op­po­nents, turn­ing full cir­cles, be­fore drop­ping heav­ily into his wheel­chair.

Grad­well is us­ing th­ese ex­er­cises to loosen up the bod­ies, voices and mem­o­ries of this im­prob­a­ble group of per­form­ers, who will go on to share their sto­ries, pro­vid­ing Keene and

di­rec­tor Stephen Rayne with a rich seam of raw ma­te­rial. Rayne is from Bri­tain and be­came in­volved in this pro­duc­tion af­ter Hur­ley saw a play he di­rected, The Two Worlds of Char­lie F, in Lon­don in 2012. In this sear­ing work, wounded Bri­tish sol­diers, in­clud­ing four am­putees, told their sto­ries on stage, and Hur­ley im­me­di­ately saw the need for an Aus­tralian ver­sion. The di­rec­tor jokes he was signed up to over­see The Long Way Home be­cause ‘‘ if it fails mis­er­ably they can al­ways blame me and say it was a Pom who was in­volved in it’’.

Rayne says he and Keene ‘‘ have started from kind of point zero with a group of wounded, in­jured and ill sol­diers who have never acted be­fore, who’ve never been on a stage be­fore, who’ve never been in a the­atre, some of them ... It’s a very daunt­ing propo­si­tion.’’ For the di­rec­tor, the play’s key ob­jec­tive is to con­vey the en­dur­ing, of­ten hid­den na­ture of sol­diers’ in­juries. Ac­cord­ing to the ADF, more than 260 Aus­tralian troops have been wounded in Afghanistan since 2002, and emo­tional scar­ring may only be­come ob­vi­ous years af­ter a sol­dier’s tour of duty fin­ishes. Psy­cho­log­i­cal in­juries, Rayne says, are ‘‘ be­gin­ning to be taken se­ri­ously by gov­ern- ments . . . but it’s a very long shadow cast into so­ci­ety’’. Sta­tis­tics in the US and Europe point to a high num­ber of mil­i­tary men and women who com­mit­ted sui­cide and ‘‘ have not prop­erly been taken care of once they leave the forces’’. With the draw­down from Afghanistan, he warns, ‘‘ there are go­ing to be more and more peo­ple com­ing back into so­ci­ety — in Aus­tralia as well — who are go­ing to be suf­fer­ing the ef­fects of hav­ing served over­seas . . . It is a legacy that will con­tinue for many, many years and many gen­er­a­tions ahead.’’

Sarah Web­ster no doubt would agree. Like Wil­son, she has been se­ri­ously wounded — she was in­jured on her first tour of duty to Bagh­dad’s Green Zone in 2006, when a Katyusha rocket ex­ploded where she slept. And like Wil­son, she will make her act­ing de­but in The Long Way Home. A sergeant now liv­ing in Mel­bourne, Web­ster en­listed in this highly un­usual ven­ture be­cause ‘‘ any­one who hasn’t been through a war, there is no way they can un­der­stand that [the as­so­ci­ated trauma] ... The pub­lic don’t see dis­lo­ca­tion, the ef­fect on the fam­i­lies. You don’t see the fact that some of th­ese peo­ple in­tend on be­ing mil­i­tary their whole lives, but all of a sud­den their ca­reers are cut short . . . A lot of the guys take years to get over what hap­pened to them. A lot of them have is­sues so­cially or with fam­ily.’’

Af­ter Web­ster was in­jured — she suf­fered a frac­tured skull, torn spleen, dis­lo­cated hip and bro­ken kneecap — she de­vel­oped anx­i­ety and sought pro­fes­sional help. But some of her col­leagues, she says, wouldn’t dream of telling their chain of com­mand that they were hav­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems.

Now 33, Web­ster de­scribes the rocket at­tack of Au­gust 14, 2006, with al­most dev­as­tat­ing un­der­state­ment. ‘‘ I was in bed at the time the rocket hit,’’ she says. ‘‘ Un­for­tu­nately, the room that was hit was mine.’’ She had been sleep­ing and was knocked un­con­scious. She was 26 and needed five months of re­hab, which was ‘‘ very hard work’’. Re­mark­ably, she was de­ter­mined not just to re­turn to work but to go on another over­seas op­er­a­tion. She was de­ployed to Afghanistan in 2008. ‘‘ It was a per­fectly nor­mal trip,’’ she says, her def­i­ni­tion of nor­mal clearly ex­panded by years of be­ing im­mersed in a war­rior cul­ture.

If some­one had told her while she was in Afghanistan that she would one day ap­pear be­hind the foot­lights, ‘‘ I prob­a­bly would have laughed at them’’, she says. Dur­ing the work­shops, she ad­mits, ‘‘ I did get a bit teary telling my story’’, but she is ex­cited to be go­ing on stage. ‘‘ I hope my in­ner ac­tor can come out and do a good job,’’ she says, laugh­ing. WORLD War I must have struck ter­ror into the hearts of thou­sands of Aus­tralian moth­ers who had sons of fight­ing age. But Han­nah Lovett had more to fear than most. Lovett was a mother of 12 from Vic­to­ria’s Lake Con­dah re­gion, and five of her chil­dren served in the war that killed far more Aus­tralian troops than any other. Al­fred, Leonard, Ed­ward, Herbert and Fred­er­ick Lovett put their lives on the line amid the blood, mud and de­spair of the Somme, Pass­chen­daele, Amiens and Pales­tine.

It was not merely the Lovetts’ col­lec­tive con­tri­bu­tion to the Great War that was ex­tra­or­di­nary — th­ese brothers fought for king and coun­try even though they were re­garded as non-cit­i­zens in their own na­tion. They were Abo­rig­i­nal, and at that time in­dige­nous Aus­tralians were de­nied full vot­ing and ci­ti­zen­ship rights, equal wages and the right

to marry whomever they wanted with­out ob­tain­ing of­fi­cial per­mis­sion.

In July 1915, just be­fore he set off for the grim bat­tle­fields of the Somme, a stu­dio por­tait was taken of Han­nah Lovett’s el­dest son, Al­fred, and his young fam­ily. The por­trait shows a stocky, hand­some man in a drab pri­vate’s uni­form with a slightly crooked col­lar. Alf poses with his wife, Sarah, and their two young sons. The boys are dressed in short coats with lace col­lars that swamp their nar­row shoul­ders. Sarah is a pic­ture of calm in a white blouse edged with rib­bon, a life­like toy ri­fle rest­ing against her thigh. Al­fred, in con­trast, looks tense. His mouth is clamped tight, his large, al­most star­tled eyes fixed in­tently on the cam­era, as if braced for bad news. Was the 35-year-old hus­band and fa­ther think­ing about the im­mense risks he was about to take?

Dur­ing World War I, such fam­ily portraits were of­ten shot as a kind of insurance against death; as the Aus­tralian War Me­mo­rial puts it, ‘‘ against the pos­si­ble con­tin­gency that the per­son would not re­turn from the war’’.

Hap­pily and as­ton­ish­ingly, all the Lovett brothers made it home. Even more as­ton­ish­ingly, at least three of those five World War I vet­er­ans, in­clud­ing Alf, went on to serve in World War II along with other rel­a­tives. This un­usu­ally pa­tri­otic fam­ily was among the 1000 or so Abo­rig­i­nal sol­diers who fought for the Bri­tish Com­mon­wealth in World War I and whose col­lec­tive ex­pe­ri­ences form the bedrock of Black Dig­gers.

Black Dig­gers’ nar­ra­tive will be fic­tion­alised and episodic in form, and drama­tist Tom Wright says it will ‘‘ re­in­stall black faces into what has oth­er­wise been a white pan­theon of na­tional he­roes’’. He adds hastily, as a stam­pede of buses belch fumes into the Syd­ney cafe where he and di­rec­tor Wes­ley Enoch talk to Re­view: ‘‘ I don’t think there’s any par­tic­u­lar de­sire to, in any way, crit­i­cise or den­i­grate the re­al­ity or the myth of the An­zac.’’

Enoch, as chilled out as his col­lab­o­ra­tor is in­tense, makes clear the play isn’t just about a war but our foun­da­tion sto­ries, and who fea­tures in them. ‘‘ World War I was such a defin­ing fea­ture in this coun­try,’’ says the man who runs the Queens­land The­atre Com­pany.

‘‘ We talk about the An­zac tra­di­tions but also the blood­ing of a na­tion. This coun­try is built on all th­ese sto­ries; to ques­tion them and place an Abo­rig­i­nal per­spec­tive in there is fas­ci­nat­ing. I’ve of­ten talked about writ­ing on to the pub­lic record a his­tory that is [largely] un­known and un­spo­ken.’’

The Lovetts are a star­tling case in point. The fam­ily’s five-man con­tri­bu­tion to World War I is thought to be un­ri­valled across the com­mon­wealth. In 2000, the high-rise Can­berra build­ing that houses the Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs was named af­ter the Lovetts, whose de­scen­dants fought in Korea and Viet­nam. Yet de­spite this recog­ni­tion and their unique ser­vice record, th­ese Abo­rig­i­nal brothers are far from be­ing house­hold names.

Why did hun­dreds of Abo­rig­i­nal men who were de­nied rights oth­ers took for granted risk their lives in the trenches?

For many, the lure of ad­ven­ture and equal wages, and the prom­ise of un­bi­ased treat­ment, proved ir­re­sistible. As Wright ex­plains, the Aus­tralian Im­pe­rial Force was the only com­mon­wealth mil­i­tary force that in­te­grated white and non-white sol­diers in World War I, and Abo­rig­i­nal sol­diers were paid the same as nonA­bo­rig­i­nal ser­vice­men — the AIF has been de­scribed as the na­tion’s first equal op­por­tu­nity em­ployer. Enoch, whose grand­fa­ther served in World War II, re­flects: ‘‘ If you joined the AIF, sud­denly you were thought of in a dif­fer­ent way.’’

None­the­less, dur­ing the early war years, Abo­rig­ines ini­tially were ex­cluded from join­ing up on racial grounds — en­list­ing sol­diers had to be of ‘‘ sub­stan­tial Euro­pean ori­gin’’. The turn­ing point, Enoch says, was the failed con­scrip­tion ref­er­en­dum in 1916. ‘‘ When it was de­feated, a lot more Abo­rig­i­nal sol­diers were signed up. The AIF was des­per­ate for

THE AIF HAS BEEN DE­SCRIBED AS THE NA­TION’S FIRST EQUAL OP­POR­TU­NITY EM­PLOYER

in my life I felt like my colour didn’t mat­ter.’ ‘‘ What many sol­diers also re­ported was, when they came back they found it very hard to find a place for them­selves in the black com­mu­nity, but they cer­tainly didn’t feel there were any doors open for them in the white com­mu­nity. They found them­selves, hav­ing left a no man’s land be­hind in Flan­ders, caught in another no man’s land here.’’

For ex­am­ple, some sol­dier set­tle­ment farm­ing schemes took land from Abo­rig­i­nal mis­sions to give to re­turned white sol­diers, but re­turned in­dige­nous sol­diers were of­ten ex­cluded from such land grants. Ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian War Me­mo­rial, al­though he fought in both world wars, Al­fred Lovett was de­nied land and farm­ing as­sis­tance be­cause he was not of­fi­cially an Aus­tralian cit­i­zen.

De­spite such overt dis­crim­i­na­tion, there was wide­spread af­fec­tion and re­spect for Abo­rig­ines who served, too. Wright com­ments: ‘‘ For ev­ery in­stance where Abo­rig­i­nal ser­vice­men found them­selves left out of the An­zac nar­ra­tive, there were in­stances where par­tic­u­lar col­leagues went in to bat for them.’’ He cites a case in Casino, north­ern NSW, of for­mer Abo­rig­i­nal sol­diers be­ing dis­crim­i­nated against and ‘‘ the lo­cal RSL went in most vo­cif­er­ously to stand up for their rights’’. (A host of books and ar­ti­cles also has doc­u­mented the in­dige­nous con­tri­bu­tion to World War I.)

Abo­rig­i­nal men — in­clud­ing those who did not pub­licly iden­tify as in­dige­nous — served in all the World War I cam­paigns that in­volved Aus­tralian troops, from the Gal­lipoli land­ings, to the Si­nai and the Western Front. A sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of the Light Horse Brigade — ever-glam­orous with their emu feather-plumed hats and sleek mounts — were Abo­rig­ines who came from big pas­toral sta­tions and were skilled rid­ers. In­deed, the 20th re­in­force­ment of the 11th Light Horse Reg­i­ment in­cluded so many Abo­rig­i­nal sol­diers it was nick­named the Queens­land Black Watch. Cathy Free­man’s great-grand­fa­ther, Frank Fisher, served in this out­fit.

If the Lovetts made the big­gest doc­u­mented con­tri­bu­tion of any sin­gle fam­ily to World War I, the Ngar­rind­jeri An­zacs from South Aus­tralia’s tiny Point McLeay mis­sion (now known as Raukkan) surely made one of the big­gest com­mu­nity con­tri­bu­tions. Out of a pop­u­la­tion of a lit­tle more than 100, 21 men from the mis­sion signed up, ac­cord­ing to Wil­liams. At least five did not come home.

Among the dead were brothers Ru­fus and Cyril Rigney — Ru­fus was just 16 when he en­listed in 1916; he lied about his age so he could go to the front. He died in 1917 at Pass­chen­daele and is buried amid a sea of silent white headstones in Bel­gium’s Har­lebeke New Bri­tish Ceme­tery. In­trigu­ingly, Syd­ney Fes­ti­val di­rec­tor Lieven Ber­tels, who is from Bel­gium, spot­ted this lone Abo­rig­i­nal grave at the ceme­tery and was struck by how this ‘‘ brave Ngar­rind­jeri boy . . . chose to fight for a coun­try that wasn’t even his, ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment of that time’’. Ber­tels went on to com­mis­sion Black Dig­gers, spurred by the con­vic­tion that ‘‘ we had to tell their story’’.

While re­search­ing the play, Enoch vis­ited the de­scen­dants of Abo­rig­i­nal Dig­gers in SA, NSW and Queens­land. He sat with the Rigneys’ rel­a­tives in Raukkan’s re­stored sand­stone church — the same church that ap­pears on the $50 note, be­hind that other Point McLeay hero, David Unaipon. The di­rec­tor was moved, but found th­ese sol­diers were so li­onised by their rel­a­tives, they were un­re­al­is­able as stage char­ac­ters. He asks aloud: ‘‘ What kind of show do you make around such mythic men? It’s al­most im­pos­si­ble.’’

This is one rea­son the Black Dig­gers team fic­tion­alise their ex­ten­sive his­tor­i­cal re­search and tell a wide range of sto­ries. ‘‘ This ma­te­rial is in­cred­i­bly cul­tur­ally sen­si­tive,’’ Enoch con­fides. ‘‘ No one’s alive now, but there [are] a lot of cul­tural pro­to­cols around it.’’ He says can­didly he some­times had to re­ject a com­mu­nity’s claims of own­er­ship of an an­ces­tor’s story to help cre­ate the play.

Re­search about black World War I vet­er­ans con­tin­ues, but it is tax­ing work given the AIF did not record the race of en­listed sol­diers and some in­dige­nous sol­diers did not iden­tify as Abo­rig­i­nal. Still, staff at the Aus­tralian War Me­mo­rial are rapidly adding new names to the roll — the con­firmed head­count has grown from 500 names sev­eral years ago to 1000 now.

Enoch says: ‘‘ Ev­ery­one knows the Gal­lipoli story. We’ve watched the films, we’ve read the books, we’ve seen the marches, all that stuff. But to know Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple were there then . . .’’ His voice trails away and then he says with quiet de­lib­er­a­tion: ‘‘ That we don’t ex­clude in­dige­nous Aus­tralians from our for­ma­tion nar­ra­tives — that’s a big thing for me.’’ re­in­force­ments, so it be­came much eas­ier for in­dige­nous sol­diers to get in.’’

Black Dig­gers has an all-male in­dige­nous cast, in­clud­ing one Viet­nam vet­eran, and will present a broad sweep of sto­ries re­flect­ing in­dige­nous sol­diers’ of­ten op­pos­ing re­ac­tions to the war — some re­turned home sick­ened by their war ex­pe­ri­ences; oth­ers re­mained un­wa­ver­ing pa­tri­ots. The play is di­vided into three parts: en­list­ment; black ex­pe­ri­ences of the war; and com­ing home.

While the play’s re­searcher, David Wil­liams, didn’t find much ev­i­dence of in­sti­tu­tional racism within the armed forces, it was a dif­fer­ent story when black World War I vet­er­ans at­tempted to rein­te­grate into Aus­tralian so­ci­ety. Ex­plains Wright: ‘‘ Ev­ery Abo­rig­i­nal who served in the First World War said they en­coun­tered far less [dis­crim­i­na­tion] when they were in uni­form than ei­ther side of the war. In fact many said, ‘ That was the only time

Above, in a workshop for The Long Way Home, ac­tor Tahki Saul and War­rant Of­fi­cer Den­nis Ram­say, left, and (in pale blue shirt) Sarah Web­ster, right; fac­ing page, Aus­tralian troops in Oruz­gan prov­ince; and, be­low left, Lance Corporal Gary Wil­son on duty in 2010, be­fore the crash in which he al­most lost his life

From top, stu­dio por­trait of Al­fred Lovett with his wife, Sarah, and two sons taken be­fore he left for World War I; a group of Dig­gers, in­clud­ing in­dige­nous sol­diers, who served at Gal­lipoli; Wes­ley Enoch

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