Leading the way

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Andrew Ragless (author), ABIS Nicolas Gonzalez (photographer)

Location(s): Darwin, NT

Indigenous sailors from HMAS Coonawarra hold the Australian Aboriginal Flag and the Torres Strait Islands Flag prior to marching through the city of Darwin as part of NAIDOC Week. (photo: ABIS Nicolas Gonzalez)
Indigenous sailors from HMAS Coonawarra hold the Australian Aboriginal Flag and the Torres Strait Islands Flag prior to marching through the city of Darwin as part of NAIDOC Week.

Four members of HMAS Coonawarra marched through the city of Darwin in recognition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have fought in defence of Australia.
 
Seaman Kaumi Bon, Seaman Jodie Bradley, Seaman Sharni Ludwick and Seaman Aggie Tom proudly led the march holding the Australian Aboriginal Flag and the flag of the Torres Straight Islands.  They were followed by indigenous members of Army’s North-West Mobile Force (NORFORCE), Veterans and members of the Larrakia Nation, the traditional custodians of all land and waters of the greater Darwin region.

Serving members of HMAS Coonawarra and NORFORCE (North-West Mobile Force) march through the city of Darwin as part of Top End NAIDOC week celebrations.

Serving members of HMAS Coonawarra and NORFORCE (North-West Mobile Force) march through the city of Darwin as part of Top End NAIDOC week celebrations.


Seaman Kaumi Bon from Thursday Island said to lead the march was an unexpected honour.
 
“I was very glad to be there, and to represent indigenous Australians before us who had the courage to join the Australian Defence Force,” he said.

Seaman Boatswain's Mate (SMNBM), Aggie Tom and SMNBM Kaumi Bon of HMAS Coonawarra attend the Commemorative Service at the Darwin Cenotaph as part of Top End NAIDOC week celebrations.

Seaman Boatswain's Mate (SMNBM), Aggie Tom and SMNBM Kaumi Bon of HMAS Coonawarra attend the Commemorative Service at the Darwin Cenotaph as part of Top End NAIDOC week celebrations.


Seaman Bon followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Royal Australian Navy as a Boatswain’s Mate in 2013.  He has served briefly in HMAS Bathurst as a relief member of patrol boat crew Aware Three, conducting civil maritime security operations as part of Operation RESOLUTE. He is now a member of HMAS Coonawarra’s Port Services.
 
“My father joined the Navy to become a Marine Technician and served for many years,” he said.
 
“It was an easy choice for both of us to make because the sea is a very big part of our culture and traditions in the Torres Strait - it is an honour to protect the sea and our way of life.”
 
“My father passed away this year but today was an opportunity to remember him and to recognise the contributions he, and others in our community, have made to defend our country.”

Mr Desmond Mayo lays a wreath on behalf of all Indigenous ex-serving personnel and Veterans at the Darwin Cenotaph during a commemorative service held at the Darwin Cenotaph as part of Top End NAIDOC week celebrations.

Mr Desmond Mayo lays a wreath on behalf of all Indigenous ex-serving personnel and Veterans at the Darwin Cenotaph during a commemorative service held at the Darwin Cenotaph as part of Top End NAIDOC week celebrations.


NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  This year's NAIDOC theme; ‘Serving Country: Centenary and Beyond’ honours all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have fought in defence of country. The Australian Defence Force is proud to highlight and recognise the role they have played in shaping our identity and honour their priceless contribution to our nation.

Imagery is available on the Navy Image Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20142030 and http://images.navy.gov.au/S20142041.