The Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force have joined Indigenous and community leaders to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the formation of the NTSRU – the Northern Territory Special Reconnaissance Unit. The Unit was created in 1942 to protect Australia’s north during World War II. The Army’s modern day NORFORCE (North-West Mobile Force) traces its history back to the NTSRU.
NORFORCE Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Medlin said NORFORCE led the commemorations of the 1942 Makarrata in the Eastern Arnhem Land communities of Raymangirr and Gapuwiyak. “Makarrata is an ancient Yolngu ceremony which united warring indigenous groups to join with the Australian Army to form the NTSRU. This is an important, but largely unknown piece of Australian military history where Aboriginal people came together with the Australian Army to defend our nation,” LTCOL Medlin said. “The Yolngu soldiers of the NTSRU showed incredible cultural leadership in 1942 by unifying warring groups. This is a proud legacy which still has lessons for all of us. This is particularly true within NORFORCE, where the example of Private Raiwalla Mildjingi, who led the 1942 Makarrata, is revered and continues to be celebrated.”
The history of the NTSRU and the 1942 Makarrata continues to be important to indigenous ADF members, particularly Yolngu soldiers in NORFORCE, with more than 30 descendants of original NTSRU veterans.