Navy’s Indigenous Performance Group Bungaree, was once again centre stage when it proudly performed before 1,200 guests at the 2014 National NAIDOC Awards, held recently at the Gold Coast, to recognise the outstanding contribution of Indigenous Australians.
For Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, Bungaree’s performance was another opportunity to showcase to the Indigenous community that Navy is moving forward embedding cultural understanding and diversity into everyday work practices.
“While the theme of NAIDOC Week has allowed the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to reflect on the service of all Indigenous Australians, it also highlights the advances Defence is making as it seeks an inclusive culture that reflects the makeup of the broader Australian community,” Vice Admiral Barrett said.
In keeping with this year’s theme, 'Serving Country - Centenary and Beyond,' Vice Admiral Barrett also had the honour of presenting one of the major Awards, the Male Elder of the Year, to Mr Richard Archibald. A Gumbaynggirr man, Mr Archibald is well known for raising the profile and awareness of Aboriginal servicemen.
For Bungaree dance member, Chief Petty Officer Ray Rosendale, initiatives such as Bungaree are already having an impact on Indigenous communities, sending the message that Navy respects their cultures and wants to encourage greater indigenous participation in the ADF.
“The members of the group are very aware of the unique opportunity they have been given. It is very special to represent the Navy at any time and to do so highlighting your heritage is something that very few have hade the honour of doing.
“Events such as the NAIDOC Awards allow us to highlight our Indigenous heritage at the same time as representing the wider Navy.
"Bungaree has several Non-Indigenous members who, combined with our Indigenous members are a very obvious and positive reinforcement of the diversity and inclusiveness of Navy.
“I have been very privileged to see and hear the response to Bungaree. Navy people as well as other services and civilians are very impressed by the performances they have seen. Among the comments I’ve heard are, ‘I saw the dancing and the way that it was a part of the whole Navy ceremony, I was proud to be a member of a Navy where we can take the initiative and be proud of who we are’.
"One of the civilians at the NAIDOC awards said, ‘I had shivers and tears at the same time, to see that performance made me very proud of our people and what the Navy is doing’,” Chief Rosendale said.
Bungaree which performed to wide acclaim at Chief of Navy’s recent Change of Command ceremony, comprises officers and sailors of the Royal Australian Navy and represents clans and nations from as far afield as Torres Strait to the western plains of New South Wales.
Bungaree members wear a mix of traditional dress and naval uniform representing both their traditional and military heritages. Their performances reflect both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditions and were first displayed at the 2013 International Fleet Review.