Connection to land and sea celebrated

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Ben Robinson (author), POIS Phil Cullinan (photographer)

Location(s): Australian War Memorial, Canberra

Topic(s): NAIDOC Week, Bungaree Indigenous Performance Group

Bevan Smith from the Wiradjuri Echoes plays the Didgeridoo during the 2015 NAIDOC Week commemorative service held at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.  (photo: POIS Phil Cullinan)
Bevan Smith from the Wiradjuri Echoes plays the Didgeridoo during the 2015 NAIDOC Week commemorative service held at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Defence members and public servants came together at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra on 8 July to commemorate the service and sacrifice of indigenous veterans.

This year’s NAIDOC Week theme highlights Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ strong spiritual and cultural connection to land and sea, providing opportunity to pay respect to country, honour those who work tirelessly on preserving land, sea and culture, and to share the stories of many sites of significance or sacred places with the nation.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a long and rich history of contributing to the defence of Australia and many continue to proudly serve their country today as members of the Australian Defence Force and as Defence civilians.

The welcome address was delivered by Warrant Officer Brett West from the Royal Australian Air Force.

“This year’s theme for NAIDOC is ‘we all stand on Sacred Ground: Learn, Respect and Celebrate,’ why is this important?” asked Warrant Officer West.

“In the Defence context, it is timely for us to recognise that our bases and other places of work are all on Indigenous land, cared for and protected for thousands of years by the Indigenous traditional owners.

“It is up to Defence to not only recognise this ownership, but also to be sensitive to the cultural significance of these lands and provide the appropriate, considered care needed,” Warrant Officer West said.

“While I have mentioned lands through this address, it should not be forgotten that we have a presence on the sea as well, and that the cultural significance of the connection to the sea by many Indigenous Australians should also be acknowledged, and the appropriate respect and care be given to these maritime areas.”

Royal Australian Navy Indigenous Advisor, Chief Petty Officer Ray Rosendale thanks and farewells guests for attending the 2015 NAIDOC Week commemorative service held at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Royal Australian Navy Indigenous Advisor, Chief Petty Officer Ray Rosendale thanks and farewells guests for attending the 2015 NAIDOC Week commemorative service held at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Chief Petty Officer Ray Rosendale, the Chief of Navy's Strategic Indigenous Affairs Adviser also spoke.

“Today you heard about NAIDOC and about why we are here," he said.

“We are here to celebrate together, the key word is we all stand together on sacred ground and we always will.

“We are one nation and the more that we celebrate together the stronger, that bond continues.”

Navy recognises the unique skill sets, knowledge and perspectives that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders bring to the Royal Australian Navy to strengthen and enhance our capability.

Navy’s recruitment and retention of Indigenous members continues to grow through development programs and pre-recruitment training.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community engagement continues throughout the year and is increasing with the major activity this year involving the crew of HMAS Arunta renewing an old friendship with the Arrernte people in Alice Springs over the Anzac weekend.

Selection of the Arunta name and motto ‘Conquer or Die’ recognises the ship's proud history and the ongoing and special relationship with Arrente people.

Two Defence Indigenous Development Program – Navy courses are being conducted in 2015. The first course commenced in March with 15 recruits selected and the second course is due to commence in August with current applications indicating over 50 interested individuals. 

Flag bearers at the NAIDOC Indigenous Service wreath laying ceremony salute as the 'Last Post' is sounded at the Australian War Memorial.

Flag bearers at the NAIDOC Indigenous Service wreath laying ceremony salute as the 'Last Post' is sounded at the Australian War Memorial.

Vice Chief of Defence Force Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, formally named Navy’s Indigenous Performance Group 'Bungaree', on 28 June 2014 when he was Chief of Navy, in honour of the important Indigenous maritime figure, King Bungaree.

King Bungaree played a key role in Australia’s early coastal exploration. His achievements, though not widely known, deserve recognition as part of Australia’s maritime history.

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.

Representing clans and nations from as far afield as Torres Strait to the western plains of New South Wales—all are either officers or sailors of the Royal Australian Navy.

NAIDOC Week is held annually to recognise and celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Since 1972, NAIDOC Week has been recognised as a time for Australians of all backgrounds to learn and celebrate our rich and diverse Indigenous history, heritage and culture.