On Wednesday 11th July 2018, Inala Community House Community Engagement team was invited to attend the official book launch of “The Missing Man” about Len Waters, Australia’s first and only known Aboriginal fighter pilot during World War II.
The biography reveals the untold story of Len Waters, a local man who served his country as the first Aboriginal fighter pilot and the adversaries he faced when he returned home. Mr Waters flew 95 operational sorties with 78 Squadron from 1943 to 1945 but later became a “missing man” in Australia’s wartime history. It remained this way until his death in Cunnamulla, in western Queensland, in 1993.
It is now in his honour that his story is being told via this new book by former journalist and author Peter Rees.
The official book launch was aptly held at Len Waters Park (197 Poinsettia Street, Inala). The event attracted about 300 people including Mr Waters’ extended family, members of both Aboriginal and general community.
The event started at 2pm with a Welcome to Country by Uncle Billy Bonner. A song “Wind Beneath My Wings” was then performed by Nathan Waters.
“Len Waters was an Aboriginal fighter pilot – the first and only – what an extraordinary feat in 1940s Australia. This book is about the power of one – one man’s life, one man’s story. Through the lens of one man’s life, the larger story of racial discrimination and its ramifications for Aboriginal people, generally, could be brought home to the Australian community in a very personal way,” said author Peter Rees in his speech.
Speeches from special guests included Director General Chris Sara from Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Milton Dick MP (Federal Member for Oxley), Forest Lake Councillor Charles Strunk and Graham Perrett MP (Federal Member for Moreton).
“Things are so much easier now than they were back in my days. As I say, you were a Murri and you kept your place. That’s the way it was,” said Mr Waters’ brother Kevin, who was proud of how things had changed in Australia since he was young. After returning from the war, Len had hoped to set up a regional aviation service in south-west Queensland but was rejected for his civilian pilot’s licence due to his Aboriginality.
“But as Father always said, the sky’s the limit and you can always have a dream. You just have to believe in yourself, be honest, have pride, have dignity, integrity and be accountable. And it’ll all pay off,” said Mr Waters’ eldest daughter, Lenise Schloss who was a high school history teacher and a lecturer at the University of Canberra.
The event concluded with book signing and afternoon tea for all.
“The Missing Man” is now available in all major bookstores.