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Podcast honours Anzac spirit


A new educational podcast called Bringing His Spirit Home: Private Arthur Thomas Walker, Ngarrindjeri Anzac, launched this month at the historic Torrens Training Depot in Adelaide.

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Elder Uncle John Lochowiak was just eight months old when his grandfather Anzac Walker died.

“He held me when I was a baby” John says. “So, I had that connection with him.”

When Anzac served in the Australian Army during World War II he followed in the footsteps of his father, Private Arthur Thomas Walker, a Ramindjeri man of the Ngarrindjeri nation, who left his home in Goolwa in 1915 to serve in Gallipoli. In August 1916, at the age of 33, Private Walker was killed in action in a muddy field in France. In that moment, he became one of thousands of soldiers with ‘no known grave’.

“My great grandfather enlisted for love of Country,” John says. “He had friends who were non-Aboriginal people and he wanted to join the army to offer his services. He wanted to fight for Australia.”

John Lochowiak and his son Anzac. Picture: Warren Melling

John Lochowiak and his son Anzac. Picture: Warren Melling

Arthur’s son Anzac was born on April 25 1915, the day of the infamous landing at Anzac Cove. His name honoured soldiers who fought that devastating battle.

“My family continues the honour of naming a son in each generation Anzac,” John says. “It’s very special.”
While John never knew his great grandfather, not personally anyway, the power of story made sure he understood the legacy Private Walker left for his people and the nation.

“Growing up in Coober Pedy we didn’t have television or radios so mum used to tell us stories about our great grandfather,” John says. “We heard lots of stories about him and about her dad (Anzac Walker) who fought in World War II. That was important to us because as far back as I can remember we took part in Anzac Day marches and felt a sense of pride about the Anzac spirit.”

As head of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry in Adelaide, John knows how profound and enlightening storytelling can be. That’s why the recent launch of the podcast ‘Bringing His Spirit Home: Private Arthur Thomas Walker, Ngarrindjeri Anzac’ is so important.

The seven-part immersive audio podcast was commissioned by the Virtual War Memorial Australia and funded by the SA Department for Education. Award-winning podcast maker, Megan Spencer produced the series.

“This is a First Nations story,” Megan says. “It takes you through what it was like for Aboriginal men to join up during that World War I period and what they left behind.

“It was illegal for him to join up. Life was really hard for everyone in Australia back then, but it was particularly difficult and restrictive for Aboriginal people. There’s a lot of that truth-telling throughout this podcast.”

Bringing His Spirit Home podcast producer Megan Spencer. Photographer Warren Melling

Bringing His Spirit Home podcast producer Megan Spencer. Photographer: Oliver Budack

There’s a lot of beauty in it, too. Like the sounds of nature in the background as Megan explores the land and waters Private Walker and his family called home. It’s there in the emotion in John’s mother’s voice as she talks about her lost loved ones.

“My mum Mabel features on it, as does my son Anzac” John says. “She doesn’t say much but what she does say is powerful. Mum is a lovely person who helped the community, black or white. Community service, helping, caring and sharing for all Australians is important to my family.”

John adds that making the podcast was an emotional process for all concerned.

“Mum lost her grandfather in the war. It affected all of us but sharing these stories helps the healing process. We’re a spiritual family and this has really helped.
“Even though my mother told us stories about her grandfather, there was a lot we didn’t know. We had people out gathering notes from history and war memorials – helping us just get as much information as possible. There were just so many people, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people who were so helpful in gathering information.”

For many years, First Nations military personnel were excluded from the Australian Anzac story. The podcast highlights and acknowledges the contribution and sacrifice Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples made.

“This is not just about Arthur Thomas Walker, it’s about all our people who served,” John says. “That’s very important to me.”
“Bringing His Spirit Home’ also contemplates the meaning of Anzac spirit.

“John brings up an overlap between traditional Aboriginal values and what we consider the Anzac experience to be,” Megan says. “Egalitarianism, mateship, never leaving anyone behind, and care and share.”

Guests gather at the launch of the Bringing His Spirit Home podcast. Photographer by Warren Melling

Guests gather at the launch of the Bringing His Spirit Home podcast. Photographer by Warren Melling

The podcast also explores what commemoration looks and feels like in a spiritual sense. “I actually make a personal discovery of what that actually means,” Megan says. “It’s connected with nature, and it’s connected with the person we’re honouring but it’s much bigger in many ways.”
A raft of supporting resources accompanies the podcast. These can be used in classrooms.

“It’s also crafted as a really immersive multi-episode podcast so that people can listen to it from anywhere in the world,” Megan says. “It’s a podcast for the general public too.”

John hopes the story is spread far and wide.

“I’d like all Australians to listen to it because it’s a positive story,” he says.

“We hear so many negative stories these days, but I think these positive stories will bring us together, all Australians together as one. That’s the way it should be. That’s the beauty of education. It’s how we’re going to break down barriers.”

The podcast is free and is suitable for all ages and is now live on the Virtual War Memorial Australia website. It also comes with comprehensive classroom resources and is available to the general public.

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