Defending whose country? Yolngu and the Northern Territory Special Reconnaissance in the Second World War

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This article questions to what extent – if at all – Yolngu participation in the Second World War represented a rupture of settler colonialism in Arnhem Land. The article examines the Northern Territory Special Reconnaissance Unit (NTSRU) as a case study to demonstrate the continuity of colonial structures before, during, and after the war. The limited writings on the NTSRU focus on it as an example of indigenous people working in harmony with white Australia for a common goal. This article contextualises the force in the settler colonial framework prevalent in Arnhem Land since first contact with Europeans. The paper first briefly outlines the main characteristics of settler colonialism, and then delineates how settler colonialism manifested in Arnhem Land leading up to the war. Scrutiny of the force’s orders and patrols demonstrates that participation in World War II did not rupture the colonial relationship, nor did it lead to recognition of indigenous rights. Rather, the NTSRU example demonstrates continuing disregard for indigenous knowledge, skills, and vitality.

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access