Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander listeners are advised that this podcast contains the voices of and references to people who have passed away. It also contains concepts related to war, and some depictions of war and its aftermath.
Weaving together different voices, this 7-part podcast 'Walking In Two Worlds' powerfully explores the stories of the teenage Rigney brothers, Cyril and Rufus. We visit their homelands and hear from their Ngarrindjeri relatives firsthand to learn about the brothers’ lives and wartime service.
Presented and produced by Australian remembrance podcast maker Megan Spencer.
Production of this podcast has been made possible through a grant from the South Australian Department for Education.
Part 1 introduces the story of the 21 Ngarrindjeri Anzacs who fought in WW1 and describes their beautiful homeland, the Coorong. We hear an introductory montage of voices – those of the podcast contributors - discussing the wartime service of two of the 21 Ngarrindjeri Anzacs, brothers Cyril and Rufus Rigney, who made the ultimate sacrifice in WW1, along with three other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men. A question is posed which is then explored in the podcast: Why would these 21 young Ngarrindjeri men want to fight for a country that did not give them equal rights?
Megan meets Ngarrindjeri elder Auntie Verna Koolmatrie, the great-niece of Privates Cyril and Rufus Rigney, and her son Victor, at Raukkan, formerly called ‘Point McLeay mission’. The cultural significance of Raukkan to the Ngarrindjeri is explained and Auntie Verna outlines how the land was taken with no treaties in place, leading to the displacement of the Ngarrindjeri peoples. Aunty Verna reflects on what life was like for Cyril and Rufus Rigney as young men living on the Point McLeay mission. Part 2 concludes with Uncle Major Moogy Sumner AM explaining the difficulties of life on the mission, and he challenges non-Aboriginal listeners to consider how they would feel if they lost their land and freedom.
Uncle Frank Lampard OAM imagines how the Rigney brothers would have felt on the WW1 battlefields of Belgium. Megan provides statistics about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander enlistment during WW1 and explains how Indigenous service was restricted and controlled by the ‘Chief Protectorate of Aborigines’. Proud Ngarrindjeri man Victor Koolmatrie - the great-great-nephew of Cyril and Rufus Rigney - and Megan, provide a biographies of Cyril and Rufus Rigney’s service, and their descendants reflect on the impact that the young men’s deaths had on their community.
Why did Ngarrindjeri men, including the Rigney Brothers, enlist for WWI? Uncle Frank Lampard, Aunty Verna Koolmatrie, Uncle Major ‘Moogy’ Sumner, Uncle Gary Oakley and Uncle Victor Wilson discuss why the Rigney brothers enlisted. Megan also speaks with historian Rachel Caines, who says that while there is no one reason to explain why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men enlisted in WWI, there is evidence to show that some enlisted as a type of protest, as a form of resistance and as an act of personal sovereignty.
The impact of Cyril and Rufus’s deaths on their family and community is discussed. The Ngarrindjeri soldiers who did make it home were not provided with any support from the government, instead their communities were left to look after them. Uncle Frank Lampard and Auntie Verna Koolmatrie explain the spiritual connection of the Ngarrindjeri to Country, and the importance of returning to Country for burial.
Part 6 explains the inspiration and origins of the innovative bi-cultural commemorative program ‘Connecting Spirits’, where a group of high school students from South Australia scattered sand from the Ngarrindjeri ancestral homelands of the Coorong on the grave of Rufus Rigney in Belgium. Soil from Rufus’s grave was then collected then returned to Country with a ceremony on the shores of the Coorong near Raukkan. Created in 2006, the program is still going and affected all involved – it still does to this day.
Part 7 begins with the sounds of the daily Last Post ceremony at Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium, where Private Cyril Rigney’s name is commemorated. We hear a recording of Uncle Frank Lampard reading the Ode there. The importance of understanding the ANZAC story in its entirety is discussed, with inclusion and recognition of the war service of people from all cultural backgrounds. Megan reflects that commemoration is a dynamic process that continues to grow and change over time. By way of ending the podcast, Aunty Glenys Wilson sings ‘A Tribute to the Anzacs’, a moving song written by her husband Uncle Victor Wilson, to remember the Ngarrindjeri Anzacs’ service and sacrifice.
The opinions expressed in this podcast are those of individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Virtual War Memorial Australia.
This podcast is dedicated to the Ngarrindjeri Anzacs and their families, and to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service people and their families, who have served and sacrificed at home and overseas, past and present.