Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Maritime Warfare Officer Lieutenant Commander Rose Apikotoa was recently interviewed at Fleet Base East and onboard the Anzac Class Frigate HMAS Stuart as part of an initiative of the University of Western Sydney called Pasifika Achievement To Higher Education (PATHE).
PATHE aims to promote and foster aspirations towards further education and training amongst Pacific people in the Greater Western Sydney by profiling the professional journeys and achievements of Australians of a Pacific heritage.
Lieutenant Commander Apikotoa is a first generation Australian of Tongan descent who joined the RAN in 1997, initially undertaking undergraduate studies at the Australian Defence Force Academy before going on to become the first person of Polynesian descent to drive an Australian warship at sea.
“Seventeen years after joining the Navy I have a Bachelors degree and a Masters degree. I have sailed the world and had many great experiences.
“The Australian Navy has quite a few Tongan members, though it seems that the girls outnumber the guys.
“When your colleagues find out that you are from Tonga they want to know about you. I enjoy the opportunity to share my Tongan culture with my Australian friends and colleagues,” Lieutenant Commander Apikotoa said.
The PATHE initiative has to date conducted around 20 interviews with Australians of a Pacific Island heritage, and the University of Western Sydney’s PATHE Multimedia Producer, Miss Kalo Fainu, enjoyed the opportunity to interview Lieutenant Commander Apikotoa at Fleet Base East, and onboard an Australian warship.
“I was struck by the diverse range of opportunities available to young Australians, regardless of their cultural heritage.
“Seeing Defence personnel of many backgrounds working side by side doing their daily work was a real eye opener,” Miss Fainu said.
During her career to date Lieutenant Commander Apikotoa has served in various warships, including HMA Ships Anzac, Bunbury, Gladstone, Norman, Gascoyne, Sydney, Newcastle and Parramatta, as well a variety of shore postings, including the key positions of Aide de Camp to the Chief of Defence Force and Navy Assistant Director Category Manager for Communications and Intelligence.
An avid Rugby Union fan, Lieutenant Commander Apikotoa is the current RAN Rugby Union Women’s Advocate, and has been involved in Navy and ADF Rugby Union as both a player and manager.
Further information about PATHE can be found at http://www.uws.edu.au/pathe/pathe/about_pathe.