Australia Remembers 3: Len Waters Boundless and Born to Fly
Big Sky, 2021
60pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99
Kamilaroi man, Len Waters may have been born behind the gates of an Aboriginal reserve, but his big imagination and even bigger dreams took him soaring well beyond the reach of those who tried to confine him.
From his childhood days, Len Waters dreamed of taking to the skies. But being indigenous, born in the 1920s and with just a basic education restricted by rules and regulations, it was an unlikely dream at the time. However dreams can come true and from making his home-made model aeroplanes at his kitchen table, his supportive family, determination, persistence and work ethic meant he beat the odds to become Australia’s first known Aboriginal fighter pilot, flying RAAF fighter jets in the south west Pacific in World War II.
Len was a history maker, a young man who didn’t let society’s prejudice, his culture or skin colour stand in his way. But when WWII was over, Len sadly discovered that his service and courage did not result in equality. Len once said that, out of his RAAF uniform, he simply ‘returned to being a black fellow’.
Today, decades later, Len’s determination and achievements are recognised and honoured across Australia, his story now told in the third in this remarkable series that makes Australia’s military history accessible to younger readers. with its age-appropriate text, many coloured photos, and appealing layout. But more than that, it is one of a growing number of titles, which includes Dreaming Soldiers by the same author , that are at last, acknowledging the contribution made by our First Nations peoples and perhaps inspiring those of the current generation to also dream big.
This series which includes Australia Remembers : ANZAC Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials and Australia Remembers 2: Customs and Traditions of the Australian Defence Force is a valuable addition to any library’s collection so that our students can learn about the significant events and people of the past that continue to shape us. Len Waters died in 1993, but books like this and The Missing Man are finally bringing his service to prominence and making him so much more than “a black fellow.” I wonder what he would make of that.