For Adelaide Hills Navy Reservist, Commander Steve Dunning, the Australian Defence Force Long Tan Youth Leadership Awards provided the perfect opportunity for him to engage with his local community.
Commander Dunning said it also gave him the opportunity to reflect on Defence's values-based culture and how Navy people can live these through our signature behaviours to influence culture on a daily basis.
“The concepts of leadership and teamwork certainly resonates with me, and when I saw the request for a volunteer to present the Long Tan Awards at one of my local schools, Cornerstone College,” he said.
“I thought it was a unique opportunity to connect with my community and raise students’ awareness of the Navy, its values and role within the Australian community.”
Cornerstone College Wellbeing Leader, Mr Justin Kerber said the school community valued the opportunities for members of our community to connect with the school.
“We were especially honoured to have Commander Dunning as a special guest and representative of the Australian Defence Force,” he said.
Conducted before the College’s recent September assembly, which included students, teachers and parents, Commander Dunning reflected on the key aspects of the Long Tan Awards before formally presenting certificates and cheques to the two Award recipients, Year 10 student Fae Gehren and Year 12 student Kendra Formosa.
Before an audience of some 900 people, Commander Dunning closed the presentation, commending the two recipients on behalf of the Australian Defence Force for being part of a select group of national recipients.
“The Australian Defence Force wishes to recognise and reward students who contribute to their fellow students and the broader community by displaying the qualities of leadership, teamwork, reliability, integrity as well as a willingness to serve within both their own schools and the broader local community,” Commander Dunning said.
“Young people like yourselves are the future custodians of these values and, through the Long Tan Awards, the Australian Defence Force hopes to highlight the achievements of today’s youth who will become tomorrow’s leaders.”
Mr Kerber said Commander Dunning’s reflection on the importance of the developing skills of leadership, teamwork and initiative set the scene for the process of acknowledgement that followed.
“His personal presentation was a great example to students in our community of the importance of self-respect and due reverence for an occasion,” he said.
“The nature of attributes like leadership, teamwork, initiative and mateship means that they often occur ‘behind the scenes’ by individuals who demonstrate great humility in regards to their contributions.
“It is fantastic that through this award such individuals are encouraged in their endeavours and identified as role models for others.
“It was also a lovely touch when Commander Dunning took the time on stage to personally congratulate the girls and present for photographs.
“I know both Kendra and Fae were shocked by the Award announcement, but were thankful and humbled by the experience.”
The awards are an important initiative by the Australian Government in conjunction with the Australian Defence Force designed to encourage senior students - tomorrow’s leaders - to actively participate in the life of their schools and local communities. In 2007 more than 2,100 schools participated. The number of schools participating today has risen to 2,250.
The Battle of Long Tan holds a special place in the hearts and minds of Australians. In recognition of one of the defining moments in Australian military history, in August 2006 the then Prime Minister announced that it would be fitting to name the awards the ‘ADF Long Tan Youth Leadership & Teamwork Awards’. It is also a fitting tribute to the Long Tan veterans, as the very traits they demonstrated such as determination, mateship, teamwork, tenacity, compassion and leadership, are the same attributes we hope to encourage and recognise in students.