NOTE: This story contains the image of a deceased Indigenous person.
For 64 years, Corporal Frederick Prentice has laid in an unmarked grave with "no acknowledgement and no visitors", but his final resting place in Katherine will soon be recognised.
At 21 years of age, CPL Prentice - who was born in Powell Creek - enlisted for First World War service on May 7, 1915 in South Australia. He was listed as a "station hand" on his embarkation papers for the RMS Morea when he sailed from Adelaide on August 26, 1915, bound for the Western Front as part of the first Australian Pioneer Battalion.
During the Indigenous soldier's service, he was awarded a Military Medal for his "great courage" after he ran in front of enemy barrage on broken ground during the night to restock ammunition and collect machine guns at Pozieres, France on July 19, 1916.
CPL Prentice, who was part of the Stolen Generation, was laid to rest in 1957 after spending his final years in the Katherine area.
Since 2014, Katherine's Aunty Ellen Gough and Aunty Juanita Heparia have spent hundreds of hours researching and corresponding with the Australian Army, Australian War Graves and Katherine Town Council about arranging a headstone for CPL Prentice.
"Neil Cam, who used to live in Katherine, came to one of our NAIDOC meetings in 2014 to ask if we had heard of Frederick Prentice," Aunty Ellen said.
"Neil told us he was buried in Katherine so Juanita and I went to the council and were given permission to look at the cemetery maps. We found his grave but it was just a number on a plot of ground.
"Being an unmarked grave, it could've belonged to anybody even though his name was on it.
He has been laying in the grave for 64 years or so with no acknowledgement and no visitors.- Aunty Ellen Gough
"But I believe when someone's name is on a plot since the day of the burial, it's theirs. How can it belong to anybody else?"
It wasn't until 2019 when Aunty Ellen returned to the Territory that "things really picked up" and an official unveiling date was "finally" arranged for the headstone dedication of CPL Prentice.
"It's going to be a very big event and we're very happy it's finally happening," Aunty Ellen said.
All who served in the war are deserving of endless recognition, according to Aunty Ellen who praised Indigenous soldiers, including CPL Prentice, for their service.
"Black or white, they're all war heroes," she said.
"Being an Aboriginal man, CPL Prentice rose up and said 'I'm going to fight for our country' after all the trauma that went on in the beginning, he stood up.
"There could've been bitter thoughts by our people such as 'why should we go and fight? Look what happened to us' but there were a lot of Aboriginal people who rose up and fought. He was one of many."
The headstone dedication will take place on Wednesday, September 29, 2021 at 3pm at the Katherine Memorial Cemetery.
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