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First Ever Indigenous Memorial Ceremony To Be Held At Gallipoli

Ceremony commemorating fallen soldiers will take place at Lone Pine in August.

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen who'll take part in the ceremony at Lone Pine. (Supplied)

The Australian Army will in August hold its first ever ceremony recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who fought at Gallipoli, BuzzFeed News has learnt.

Eight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen have been selected to take part in the ceremony to be held on August 6 at Lone Pine. Attendees will pay respect to Indigenous soldiers who fought and died there in 1915.

Details for the ceremony have not yet been finalised, although it's believed Governor General Peter Cosgrove will be in attendance to witness a smoking ceremony designed to call lost spirits back home.

Major Joseph West is co-ordinating the project and tells BuzzFeed News that it is important for all Australians to acknowledge Indigenous Australians' sacrifices, as the nation reflects on the Anzac centenary this year.

"To date we have 50 names of people who we know served in Gallipoli who were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and we have eight names of known soldiers confirmed fallen at Gallipoli who were Aboriginal. Throughout World War One there was something like 1500 Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders who served."

Those soldiers served despite a ban on Indigenous people enlisting at the time because they weren't considered Australian citizens. All of those who did enrol lied about their heritage. In most cases the army turned a blind eye.

"There are a lot of indigenous soldiers who fell over there who will probably never really be recognised and acknowledged. It's fitting that we as soldiers reach back and commemorate the service of those soldiers that we might never know."

Sergeant Norman Daymirringu (Supplied)

Sergeant Norman Daymirringu from Arnhem Land will lead the smoking ceremony.

The proud Yolngu man says it’s an important healing ritual.

"I will be conducting the calling out and smoking ceremony. Calling to the spirits to tell them to come home back to Australia. It's really important. Bringing our forgotten traditional tribal people who fought in World War One, bring them back to their soil. It is emotional and my heart is really feeling for them, it's going to be sorry business for us."

Private Goodwill Billy (Supplied)

Private Goodwill Billy from Yorke Island in the Torres Strait says the spirit of defending your traditional homelands is an intrinsic part of Indigenous culture.

Private Billy will be doing a traditional Island dance honouring the bravery of those who made the journey to Gallipoli. "It's a sign of respect you give back in honour of those people who fought for their land. The movement we use in the dances are movements that we mimic from past traditional fighting styles. They would have used these techniques in war, not just the military style."

The group spent the week in Sydney honing their dances with acclaimed dance company Bangarra and will travel to Turkey at the start of August.

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