THIRTY years ago, Blacktown-born Darug elder Sandra Lee could not admit she was related to an Aboriginal soldier who fought for Australia in World War I. She was afraid even to admit she was Aboriginal.
"In the beginning we didn't talk about our Aboriginality - we were scared someone would come and take away our children," she said. "During the '60s, '70s and even the '80s there were a lot of people who had no idea I was Aboriginal."
Ms Lee, now secretary of the Darug Tribal Aboriginal Corporation, had to keep to herself the story of her relative Jerome Locke, who lied about his age to fight for Australia side by side with his three sons during the Great War.
Private Locke - service number 117A - was a soldier in the Australian Imperial Force for 17 months after his Attestation Paper of Persons Enlisted for Service Abroad was completed in Liverpool in January, 1916.
He listed his address and place of birth as St Marys and his job as a contractor. According to Phillipa Scarlett, who wrote the history book The Lock Family in World War One, he was a widower with brown hair, brown eyes and a dark complexion.
He lied about his age on the enlistment papers. Perhaps trying to disguise his age he didn't disclose his prior service with the 3rd Regiment, Windsor Corps despite the enlistment paper's request for details of previous military experience.
Locke was one of more than 450 indigenous Australians who served during World War I, although many more who tried to enlist at the start of the war were rejected on the grounds of race. By then, the indigenous population had declined to only 80,000. Ms Lee said it's not common knowledge that indigenous Australians have served in every war Australia has fought in since the Boer War at the turn of the century. Their stories of sacrifice have been ignored and forgotten by many, she said.
Locke didn't have the right to vote and he wasn't counted in the census but he was treated as an equal in the trenches of the Somme. According to Scarlett, he was hospitalised in November 1916 with trench foot - an infection caused by exposure to long periods of dampness that if left untreated turns gangrenous. The next year he was discharged and returned to Australia when he was found to be over the enlistment limit of 45.
When indigenous Australians returned from serving in the war they returned to a home where they had no civil liberties and were discriminated against in areas such as education and employment. Although they had fought alongside Anglo Australians during the war, they were not allowed to swim alongside them in public swimming pools.
"They were allowed to use guns during the war but back in Australia Aboriginals weren't allowed to own guns," Ms Lee said. "When they came back from the war, the white men came off the front of the boat and the Aboriginals had to come off back."
As poppies are pinned on collars and the bugle sounds the First Post for this year's Remembrance Day, Ms Lee hopes the contribution of her relative, and of indigenous Australians, to the war effort is not forgotten. She grew up hearing about the story of Private Locke, but most Australians have no idea of the role played by indigenous Australians, she said.
Many young indigenous Australians whom she meets, are not aware that members of their mob enlisted to fight for a country which didn't even recognise them as citizens. The Darug Tribal Aboriginal Corporation is planning to build a memorial - to commemorate all Aboriginals who have served in war - at the top of Pemulwuy's Hill in Holroyd. Pemulwuy was a great Aboriginal warrior.