Roy 'Zeke' Mundine's story

Roy Mundine, a Bunjalung man, began his distinguished career in the Australian Army in 1958.

In 1959, Roy served in Malaya with 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR) and spent much of his time patrolling in the jungle. After his posting back to Australia, he underwent parachute training in Williamstown, Victoria. Then he deployed to England with the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment (1 PARA) in the British Army.

Roy served 2 tours in South Vietnam with 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (5RAR) in 1966 and 1969.

In the Commonwealth Gazette, Roy was Mentioned in Dispatches for his actions in Vietnam on 25 April 1969. On that day, when approaching a suspected enemy area, he tripped and detonated a mine. The mine severed his right leg and damaged his back. For more than 40 minutes, Roy continued to instruct his section and refused to let anyone near him until the engineers had cleared a path through the minefield.

Roy returned to Australia for a long period of rehabilitation.

In 1987, Roy was awarded the Order of Australia medal for his service as the Quartermaster of 49th Battalion, the Royal Queensland Regiment (49RQR).

Roy remained in the Army until 1995, but defence continued to remain a large part of his life.

On 18 April 2016, Roy was appointed the Australian Army's first Indigenous Australian Elder. The role represents serving First Nations personnel and veterans, advising the Army's senior leadership and representing the Army at Indigenous events, such as National Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC Week.

Roy 'Zeke' Mundine (Australian Army), Indigenous Serviceman

Transcript

Roy Mundine, a Bunjalung man, grew up in Australia at a time when Indigenous people had very few rights and almost no status in society.

"I came up in the days of the Exemption Certificates, you know, where you had to have them to get a job, to get to school, if caught on the street after a certain time under the Native Protection Acts and of course South Africa adopted those things from us."

But in the army, he found a particular kind of equality.

"I think it was Colin Powell said, when they asked him about it, course they had a segregated army, and he said: 'Misery, in the front pitch, needs company.' And that's a known fact.

You all depend on one another. And you become like a secret society sort of a thing. And I think this is why when veterans get together for these reunion things, like Anzac Days and all that, they all welcome one another like long-lost prodigal sons."

Roy did two tours to Vietnam, the second as a section commander. He had a firm view of his responsibilities.

"A Civil War general in the Union Army said, when he was a corps commander; he was out and exposed I think at Gettysburg. And one of his aides said, 'Sir, you're exposing yourself, you'll get killed.' And he said, 'there are times when the corps commander's life doesn't count'. And at times it looked that way, that at times you've got a responsibility to try and get those people home."

In 1969, while leading his section on patrol, Roy's luck ran out.

"We saw this bunker system, so I went forward to have a look at it and I tripped a mine of some description and it just went off, bang! Blew my leg off."

Roy's men tried to get to him, but he ordered them back.

"Well they started to move forward and they would have probably come into the area where there was more mines and if there was anyone up there then they would have shot them. So we had to reorganize back on the ground so if anyone in that system had attacked us we'd be able to hold them off. And that's what happened. Because it's better one's mangled than ten. You know."

Roy returned to Australia, underwent a long period of rehabilitation and stayed in the army until 1995. Even now, it remains a large part of his life.

"And I went and helped veterans with pension things, went to different states and seen blokes, went to funerals of blokes who'd hung themselves or killed themselves, died of cancer and all that. In lots of ways, Australia has probably failed the Aboriginal people, but they will never ever admit it; and that's a sad fact of life, whether they like it or not."


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Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), Roy 'Zeke' Mundine's story, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 12 July 2024, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories/oral-histories/roy-zeke-mundines-story
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