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Waters, Leonard Victor (Len) (1924–1993)

Aboriginal fighter pilot rose above prejudice Australia's first Aboriginal fighter pilot, 69-year-old Len Waters, died yesterday morning after a fall in Cunnamulla, in south-west Queensland.

Mr Waters was the first Aborigine to achieve fighter-pilot status in the Royal Australian Air Force, serving from 1943-1945 in the 78th Squadron during World War II. Working his way up from mechanic to ground crew, he had achieved his wings despite a lack of education.

Lenise Schloss, Mr Waters' eldest daughter, said he had died as a result of a fall in which he hit his head on a rock.

Mrs Schloss, said her father overcame difficulties in his upbringing and the prejudice at the time against Aborigines to achieve success in the RAAF.

"He was accepted as an equal because he worked so hard and he was admired so much by his fellow comrades," she said.

Australian Defence Force historian Dr Robert Hall, who has interviewed Mr Waters several times for a book on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander involvement in World War II, said he was "an amazing bloke".

"He led an amazing life for a man his age," Dr Hall said.

He worked as a shearer, ring barker, and a cook for most of his life after leaving the RAAF.

"The big issue for a lot of Aboriginal servicemen, particularly in World War II, is not that they reached a top rank or achieved wonderful decorations for bravery, it is really incredible that they managed to serve at all."

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'Waters, Leonard Victor (Len) (1924–1993)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/waters-leonard-victor-len-24662/text33897, accessed 19 September 2017.

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