Indigenous soldier stood his ground

ABORIGINAL soldier Reg Combo didn't have to go to war to see atrocities against humanity.

He grew up on Cabbage Tree Island mission, near Ballina, and recalled to his children and grandchildren the terrible cries of anguish from mothers who lost their babies during the stolen generation.

Reg Combo in Tel Aviv.
Reg Combo in Tel Aviv. Contributed

Pride and conviction

But he used pride and conviction to overcome adversity all his life, attributes greatly admired by his grandson Troy, who draws strength from that history.

Troy is head program manager at the Bulgar River Medical Aboriginal Corporation Richmond Valley Clinic - Casino and today, Remembrance Day, he will acknowledge the example that Reg gave to his family and his people.

Getting a trade

Reg joined the army to get a trade as a boilermaker and in doing so became a veteran of the Second World War - serving in a dozen countries across the Middle East before being re-deployed to New Guinea where he came face to face with a Japanese soldier in the rainforest.

What happened next may surprise you: Both men turned about face and high-tailed it into the scrub!

When Reg returned from war he came back to Ballina and proudly wore his uniform while enjoying a beer in a local hotel.

Severe racism

But a policeman pounced on the black man demanding that he drink elsewhere.

"No Aborigines allowed here!" the policeman said.

But Reg, in one of his prouder moments, turned on the law enforcement officer and asked him why he had stayed home during the war while others fought for his freedom.

Seems the policeman didn't like such comments, especially from a cheeky black fella, and threatened Reg with arrest.

Another battle won

Reg replied that he had better call the Military Police, because as he was in uniform this civilian officer had no power to do as he threatened. Reg was allowed to drink his beer!

But the confrontation left a sour taste and Reg moved to Sydney, commenting later to his family that he found the city folk more tolerant of Aboriginal people than the country folk.