Be Deadly - NORFORCE: Expressions - Commemoration through Art

Be Deadly - NORFORCE: Expressions - Commemoration through Art

A printable activity sheet to help develop students' understanding of wartime artworks. Tony Albert, an Indigenous Australian artist, created this recruitment poster in 2012-13. The poster relates to NORFORCE (North-West Mobile Force), an Australian Army unit based in Northern Australia. First Australians make up a large portion of NORFORCE. Albert's poster was designed to encourage more First Australians to enlist in the unit. His bold use of design was perhaps aimed at a younger audience. Use the background context and inquiry questions to encourage student research and learning in relation to Indigenous participation in Australia's armed forces.

Series: Expressions - Commemoration through Art
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Indigenous Australians have served in Australia’s armed forces for more than a century. They have served overseas and in Australia. Many First Nations people overcame discrimination and prejudice in civilian life to become proud members of Australia’s armed forces. The Second World War saw many serve in their traditional lands in Northern Australia. That service would be the foundation for the Australian Army regiment known as NORFORCE (North-West Mobile Force). This military unit was formed in 1981 to meet a need for a permanent military presence in Northern Australia. NORFORCE relies upon the traditional skills of Indigenous Australian soldiers. Those skills are important when patrolling the extensive coastline of Northern Australia. NORFORCE is based at Larrakeyah Barracks in Darwin. NORFORCE operations cover around 1.8 million square kilometres of Northern Australia. That is the largest area covered by any military unit in the world. Today around 60 per cent of NORFORCE soldiers are Indigenous Australians.

Tony Albert is a Girramay and Kuku Yalanji man born in Townsville in Northern Queensland. He studied art at the Queensland College of Art at Griffith University. Tony became the first Aboriginal Australian official war artist in 2012. He was also the first artist attached to NORFORCE. Tony trained with the 2012 NORFORCE recruits.

Be Deadly – NORFORCE was created by Tony Albert during 2012 and 2013. It is a poster designed to encourage Indigenous Australians to enlist in NORFORCE. Tony has used contemporary design and images to give the poster appeal to younger people.

Painting depicting 3 smiling cartoon faces peer through a circle of military and Australian imagery on a poster that reads 'Be Deadly NORFORCE' with the words 'North', 'East', 'West' and 'South' in the corners.

Be Deadly - NORFORCE, by Tony Albert, 2012-2013: acrylic, collage elements and mixed media print with silver leaf on paper, 140 x 100 cm. This poster by Tony Albert was created to encourage First Australians to enlist in NORFORCE, a modern Australian military unit in Northern Australia. Albert's design is an energetic tribute to the young recruits. AWM ART94987

Inquiry questions

  1. Look carefully at the poster and describe what you see. Include all the details of the poster, even if you think they might not be significant. Keep in mind what you don’t see in the poster, as often things left out can be as important as things that are visible.
  2. Is the poster a primary or secondary source of historical information? What message is the poster trying to convey? How is it doing that?
  3. Tony Albert has used the word 'Deadly' in the poster. What is its meaning in this context?
  4. The poster combines traditional Indigenous design with contemporary non-Indigenous design. Identify as many of the individual design features as you can – why might each be included?
  5. The North Australia Observer Unit and the Northern Territory Special Reconnaissance Unit were formed during the Second World War. Each unit relied upon the traditional skills and knowledge of Indigenous people. More information about these units can be found at Indigenous service. What would a recruiting poster for these units have looked like at that time? What similarities or differences would there be in comparison to Tony Albert’s NORFORCE poster? What messages would recruitment posters from the Second World War be trying to present to Indigenous Australians?

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