Defence personnel unite in the NT for Reconciliation Week

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Todd Fitzgerald (author), POIS Peter Thompson (photographer)

Location(s): Larrakeyah Defence Precinct, NT

Topic(s): HMAS Coonawarra, National Reconciliation Week

L-R: Royal Australian Air Force Sergeant Shannon Mitchell; Australian Army soldier Regimental Sergeant Major of North West Mobile Force, Warrant Officer Class 1 Ken Nelliman; Larrakeyah Elder, Bilawara 'Auntie B' Lee; Royal Australian Navy officer Commanding Officer HMAS Coonawarra, Commander Darren Rushworth, ADC, RAN; and Australian Army soldier, Private Colin Rogan. (photo: POIS Peter Thompson)
L-R: Royal Australian Air Force Sergeant Shannon Mitchell; Australian Army soldier Regimental Sergeant Major of North West Mobile Force, Warrant Officer Class 1 Ken Nelliman; Larrakeyah Elder, Bilawara 'Auntie B' Lee; Royal Australian Navy officer Commanding Officer HMAS Coonawarra, Commander Darren Rushworth, ADC, RAN; and Australian Army soldier, Private Colin Rogan.

Navy, Army and Air Force came together at Larrakeyah Defence Precinct in Darwin recently to show their support for National Reconciliation Week.

Representatives of the Larrakia Nation performed a smoking ceremony before leading uniformed members, families and Defence civilians on a walk around the joint base, the only one in Australia that is also home to an Aboriginal Site of Significance.

The theme of Reconciliation Week this year is ‘Grounded in Truth: Walk Together with Courage’.

HMAS Coonawarra’s Commanding Officer, Commander Darren Rushworth, said the truth is Indigenous men and women have courageously served Australia in wars and conflicts for more than 100 years. 

“National Reconciliation Week is an opportunity to think about how we have come together to serve and defend our nation side by side,” Commander Rushworth said.

L-R: Command Warrant Officer HMAS Coonawarra, Warrant Officer David Hutt; Chief of Staff Headquarters Northern Command, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Webbe; Commanding Officer HMAS Coonawarra, Commander Darren Rushworth, ADC, RAN; Commanding Officer North West Mobile Force, Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Thomas; and Regimental Sergeant Major of North West Mobile Force, Warrant Officer Class 1 Ken Nelliman.

L-R: Command Warrant Officer HMAS Coonawarra, Warrant Officer David Hutt; Chief of Staff Headquarters Northern Command, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Webbe; Commanding Officer HMAS Coonawarra, Commander Darren Rushworth, ADC, RAN; Commanding Officer North West Mobile Force, Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Thomas; and Regimental Sergeant Major of North West Mobile Force, Warrant Officer Class 1 Ken Nelliman.

North West Mobile Force (NORFORCE) Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Brett Thomas said Indigenous Australians are deeply valued for their important contributions to the Australian Army, past and present.

NORFORCE draws strength from the commitment, skills and knowledge of its Indigenous soldiers and their connection to country to fulfill its mission across Northern Australia. 

“In the finest traditions of the Nackeroos in the Second World War, our people, irrespective of background, work together to protect Australia's interests,” Lieutenant Colonel Thomas said.

Squadron Leader Wayne Taylor of the Royal Australian Air Force said reconciliation was everybody’s responsibility in the Australian Defence Force.

“The future success of Defence, and ultimately our nation’s security, is reliant on its capacity to attract and retain the best possible talent regardless of gender, race, religion, disability or sexual orientation,” he said.

NORFORCE, HMAS Coonawarra and NORCOM are lodger units at Larrakeyah Defence Precinct.

Smoking ceremonies are an important occasion and one of the world’s oldest. The ceremony cleanses the area and repels the bad spirits so people can come together and live in harmony.

National Reconciliation Week is held between 27 May and 3 June each year.

Imagery is available on the Defence Image Gallery:
http://images.defence.gov.au/S20191409.