Tim Flannery, Australian of the Year in 2007, has expressed his ''personal sense of outrage'' that Aboriginal warriors who fought and died defending their lands and people against white settlers are ignored by the Australian War Memorial.
In any other war, they would have been awarded the Victoria Cross, Professor Flannery told a forum of the National Australia Day Council. But at official sites, they are not even acknowledged, let alone honoured.
''They're up there with the 300 Spartans,'' Professor Flannery said, referring to the 480 BC Battle of Thermopylae, when an outnumbered Greek force including 300 Spartans held off up to 150,000 Persians.
'They're up there with the 300 Spartans': Professor Tim Flannery.
They should be commemorated in the Australian War Memorial or have their own memorial, he said, but instead their bones were consigned to museum vaults.
Professor Flannery was on a panel debating the meaning of Australia Day and whether the lyrics of Advance Australia Fair reflected the realities of contemporary Australia.
He referred to documented massacres during the settlement of Australia when Aboriginal men stood their ground to be mowed down ''hour after hour just to give their women and children the chance to get away''.
But even calling the century-long conflict between indigenous Australians and white settlers over land a war remains controversial in the ''history wars''. Historian Henry Reynolds said national reconciliation is impossible until Australia acknowledges what he calls the ''Forgotten War''.
Shelley Reys, a Djirribul woman and vice-president of the National Australia Day Council, said most indigenous Australians felt the lack of acknowledgement, but it was ''just one of many areas where they are unacknowledged''.
She said this stemmed from the days before the 1967 referendum when indigenous Australians were not officially citizens but were treated by governments as part of the ''flora and fauna''.
The director of the Australian War Memorial, Brendan Nelson, has said it is not the appropriate place to commemorate internal colonial conflict because it is concerned with ''the story of Australians deployed in war overseas on behalf of Australia''.