IN PENNING a moving tribute to an indigenous solider who served Australian with courage, Katherine singer-songwriter Neil Camm has unwittingly inspired a push to identify the hero’s resting place.
“Black Fella Anzac” tells the story of Fredrick Prentice, an Aboriginal station hand who enlisted to serve with the Australian Imperial Force during World War I.
While Private Prentice’s service history - including being award a Military Medal in France in 1916 - is well documented, little was known about his family or his final resting place until Camm joined forces with two residents - Ellen Gough and Juanita Heparia - to find him.
“We knew he was buried in Katherine and we wanted to find out exactly where he was,” Camm explained.
The trio believes it has located the war hero’s unmarked grave in the cemetery and will now apply for both federal and local government grants in a bid to have his resting place - and his service to his country - formally identified.
“We’d like to see a headstone here to tell his story,” Mrs Gough explained.
“This is the time to do it, since Australia is celebrating the 100 years since World War I.
“I think he should be entitled to a headstone with the Anzac badge and a cross on it, so people can see he is a war hero.”
Mrs Gough said she believed the disparity between how indigenous soldiers were treated on and off the battlefield needed to be acknowledged.
“[The soldiers] were mates over there but when they came back here, they were black fellas again,” she said.
Camm’s song touches on the alienation indigenous soldiers experienced upon returning to Australia and the musician said he felt privileged to be able to tell Pvt Prentice’s story.
“The story has to be told,” he said.
“The song is the way to keep the story alive.
“He couldn’t drink with whites and didn’t question it but he was good enough to sign up and fight.”
Mrs Gough said the trio was in the process of applying for funding in order to have a headstone erected at his grave.
“I put flowers there, just so there’s something there,” she said.
“We weren’t just visiting; we were talking to the old man.”