Tradtional Wakka Wakka Elder Eric Law said he enlisted in the army after losing a bet with his dad. Photo/ Tristan Evert
Tradtional Wakka Wakka Elder Eric Law said he enlisted in the army after losing a bet with his dad. Photo/ Tristan Evert

Cherbourg Vietnam veteran enlisted after bet with dad

THE Burnett region has a proud history with Indigenous culture, from Olympic gold medallists to renowned artists and respected elders, the region is rich with stories, talent and history from First Australians.

For NAIDOC week, the South Burnett Times will shine a light on the Indigenous people, culture and traditions that make this region special.

The South Burnett Times team respects and honours Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders past, present, and future.

FIFTY THREE years ago, Cherbourg Elder and traditional Wakka Wakka man Eric Law finished high school and enlisted in the Australian Army.

A decision that shaped the man he became, ultimately changing his life forever.

At the time conscription law exempted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from the requirement to register for national service, which was determined by drawing a numbered marble from a barrel.

If the number picked corresponded to the day of the year on which a person was born, they were required to present themselves for national service.

In 1967 Mr Law made a bet with his dad that if his birthday came up in the draw, it was an omen he should join the army and funnily enough that's exactly what happened.

Mr Law said the things he learnt during his time in the military were skills he has carried with him for life.

"Back then in the army I never experienced any racism, we had a cranky old sergeant who believed there was only one colour and that was jungle green," Mr Law said.

"In my experience we were very well looked after and treated equally just like everyone else. Even when I was in command of 12 white men, there was never a problem, everyone knew where they stood and that was the thing about the military.

"I was proud to follow in my dad's footsteps and now every time I walk from my house to the ration shed I am literally walking in his footsteps, which makes every day so wonderful."

Mr Law's dad and five uncles all fought in World War One and Mr Law served in Vietnam.

The structured and disciplined lifestyle of the military was life changing according to Mr Law.

"The military most definitely shaped me, if I didn't have that discipline I don't know where I would of ended up.

"Mum and dad were always big on getting a good education and being disciplined and through the military it all came together for me, making me one lucky old black man.

"It's important for the younger generation to not get angry about our history, but learn from it. Make sure the future is one that's fair and equal and we need to be able to have honest conversations with people without getting angry."

South Burnett

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