Call of the sea remains for Boatswains Mate

This article has photo gallery Published on LSIS Helen Frank (author), LSIS Helen Frank (photographer)

Location(s): Murray Island, Queensland

Seaman Boatswains Mate Joseph Gabey at the helm of HMAS Canberra as the ship makes her way into the Port of Brisbane. (photo: LSIS Helen Frank)
Seaman Boatswains Mate Joseph Gabey at the helm of HMAS Canberra as the ship makes her way into the Port of Brisbane.

Proud Torres Strait Islander, Seaman Boatswains Mate Joseph Gabey has left his tropical home behind but still remains connected with the sea as a sailor in the Royal Australian Navy.
 
Seaman Gabey is of the Zagareb people from Murray Island in the Torres Strait. In 2014, at the age of 19, he participated in the Defence Indigenous Development Program.
 
The five-month residential course is aimed at young Indigenous adults wanting to join the Australian Defence Force. The course focuses on language, literacy and numeracy training and also teaches military skills and fitness.
 
"We started with 30 or 40 people and the best 25 were selected to go to Navy Recruit School," Seaman Gabey said.
 
"I didn't think they would ask me but they did."
 
Having learnt many Navy skills in the program, Seaman Gabey said he was a step ahead when he started Recruit training.
 
"On the first day of Recruit School I had to take charge and march the whole division because the instructors knew that I had done the program and that I knew how to give the right orders," he said.
 
"The other Recruits looked up to us a bit, running to our room asking how to do things, so I would help them out.
 
"I like helping people and passing on what I know."
 
Seaman Gabey said he chose the Navy because he felt he had a connection to the sea.
 
"I love it because the Torres Strait Islands are surrounded by the sea," he said.
 
"Growing up, it was our playground, our backyard and when we wanted food, we would just go out into the sea to get it."
 
Seaman Gabey said he wanted to move away from the Islands to build his own life and stand on his own.
 
He is now onboard one of the navy's newest ships, HMAS Canberra. Commissioned in November 2014, Canberra is the first of two large-scale amphibious ships to be introduced to Navy. The ship has a crew of 400 and is capable of embarking over 1,000 troops and their cargo that can be landed ashore by helicopters or state of the art landing craft.
 
The 27,000 tonne ships are the largest vessels ever constructed for the Navy and are capable of providing the Australian Defence Force with one of the most sophisticated air-land-sea amphibious deployment systems in the world. Canberra is capable of complex amphibious operations including non-combatant evacuations and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, such as Operation FIJI ASSIST where she is currently deployed.
 
Seaman Gabey has many jobs on board Canberra from manning the sea boat, keeping watches on the bridge and being a member of a fire fighting team. 
 
"I was in the fire team when the ship undertook unit readiness evaluation," he said.
 
"It was exciting because I hadn't been on the ship very long.
 
"I'm also the helmsman when we come into port and that's exciting because I am steering the ship into harbour."
 
Seaman Gabey is proud of his Indigenous heritage and sees links between his culture and that of the Navy. 
 
"I think it's good to represent where I come from, and to join my culture with the Navy culture," he said.
 
"In my culture you respect your elders, in the Navy you respect the rank." 
 
Operation FIJI ASSIST is Australia's Whole of Government contribution to the international humanitarian assistance and disaster relief response after Tropical Cyclone Winston struck Fiji on the afternoon of 20 Feb 2016.
 
Canberra
 is transporting disaster relief supplies, equipment and personnel, including engineers, helicopters and medical staff.