HMAS Coonawarra officers and sailors ‘sailed’ into Arnhem Land recently to spend 15 days visiting remote communities as part of the Northern Territory Navy Community Engagement Program.
Seaman Maritime Logistics - Personnel Leah Croker was selected to travel with the team as a reward for her hard work at the Darwin naval base.
She said the visits to small townships were unforgettable and an experience she wished every sailor could participate in.
“I received many questions from the girls in the schools asking about my life and why I joined the Navy,” Seaman Croker said.
“The elders commented on how good it was to see a female attend so their girls could ask questions.
“Going to the communities and seeing the differences from Gunbalanya, Ramingining and Nhulunbuy opened my eyes to some of the hardship the communities face and made me more aware of the Yolngu culture.
“I learned the belief systems, the ceremonies and some basic words of the Yolngu language, which was an experience I can never forget,” she said.
Navy’s Community Engagement Program seeks to show support for local communities while also raising awareness of the role of the service.
Northern Territory program coordinator, Chief Petty Officer Maritime Logistics - Supply Chain Tony Thomas, said engagement was “priceless”.
Navy actively seeks to recruit indigenous personnel to ensure that the service better reflects the diversity of the Australian population.
For many in remote communities, the Navy has never been suggested as a career choice and the visits by uniform members can be a highlight.
Chief Petty Officer Thomas said it certainly wasn’t all one way traffic and that inviting Navy officers and sailors to visit the remote communities developed a greater appreciation within Navy of indigenous cultures.
“Most sailors have never entered a remote indigenous community. The community benefits and the sailors’ transformations during the experience is noticeable and encouraging,” he said.
“They return enthused and their experiences are shared to shipmates. Selection to be involved in the program is competitive and is used as a reward for high performing personnel.”