April 30, 2024

ANZAC Day and the ‘Other’ Anzacs

Can I join the Australian Army as a foreigner?

By Anne Nguyen

In honour of Anzac Day last week, did you know there were many migrants who served as soldiers in the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC)? If you’re wondering, ‘Can I join the Australian Army as a foreigner?’, read on to find out more about the diverse backgrounds of these soldiers.

The ANZAC Legend was born from some 16,000 soldiers from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who landed under fire on the shores of Gallipoli (now, known as modern day Turkiye) on 25 April. Hence, from 25 April of every year, ANZAC Day is commemorated and one of the most sacred, non-religious public holidays in Australia.

Whilst the Australian Imperial Force (“AIF”) was largely Anglo-Saxon, there were some 1000 Indigenous Australian Diggers who were thought to have served in the AIF on both the Gallipoli and the Western Front. Whilst Indigenous Australian soldiers received equal treatment ‘during’ World War I, they were subject to ongoing discrimination laws and regulations that prevented them from enlistment under the Defence Act 1903 or that if they did enlist (when laws were amended in 1917), they returned home to a country where they were not recognised as citizens, denied soldier settlement grants and refused war pensions. Whilst the author reflects on the sacrifices on all service men from Anglo-Saxon to First Nations people, this article shines a spotlight at ANZACs who are first or second generation Australians from culturally diverse backgrounds.

Many non-Anglo Saxon soldiers were descendants from Belgium, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, India, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Norway, Poland and Russia. Many of these men faced discrimination to enlist in the Australian Imperial Forces mainly because their ancestry was not of European origin. As a result, many of these men walked hundreds of kilometres to enlist many times or simply or they changed and Anglicised their names just to be enlisted.

Amongst the ANZACS were Asian Australians, who joined the force. There were at least 12 Australians of Indian descent enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces. Whilst over 500 Australians of Chinese descendance enlisted, 19 of these soldiers who served were awarded medals for bravery.

It was perhaps the German-Australian ANZACs who faced the greatest prejudice during World War 1. Despite many of the German-Australian ANZACs being of second – if not third – generation descent, they still faced ill-feeling when the war against Germany broke out.

Anglo-Saxon or not, many soldiers displayed patriotism to serve this great country of ours. We remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country so that we can enjoy the freedom and liberties today.

Whilst we hope for a peaceful world, there are pockets of civil or military unrest. If you would like to serve in the Australian Defence Force, it is mandatory that you are an Australian citizen (except for a few limited circumstances). Perhaps you are an Australian permanent resident and have been a member of the Australian Defence Force, then you may be eligible for an exemption to the residence requirement.

Unsure or simply want to see if you’re eligible for Australian citizenship, especially if you’re considering whether you can join the Australian Army as a foreigner? Let one of our seasoned lawyers assess your eligibility requirements.

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