Former aviation sailor from Christmas Island awarded Conspicuous Service Medal

Published on LEUT Geoff Long (author), POIS Phil Cullinan (photographer)

Topic(s): Australia Day Honours, Conspicuous Service Medal

File image of (then) Chief Petty Officer Zul Naim reading the story of Lance Sergeant Bin Shalid Ma'Aruff, who was killed in action during the Second World War, at the Last Post Ceremony, Australian War Memorial, June 2015. (photo: POIS Phil Cullinan)
File image of (then) Chief Petty Officer Zul Naim reading the story of Lance Sergeant Bin Shalid Ma'Aruff, who was killed in action during the Second World War, at the Last Post Ceremony, Australian War Memorial, June 2015.

As Navy continues on its path towards greater diversity and inclusion, Sub Lieutenant Zulkarnain Shah Naim, Navy’s Advisor on Inter-Cultural Affairs, has been recognised for his work with a Conspicuous Service Medal in today’s Australia Day Honours List.

Sub Lieutenant Naim can trace his appreciation of diversity and multi-cultural faith back to his upbringing on the remote Australian Territory of Christmas Island.

He was born on Christmas Island at the height of the phosphate mining boom, in a then thriving population which grew to 4500-5000 during the late 60s and the 1970s, mainly consisting of specialised skilled migrants from Southeast Asia, including his parents.

“Although most of my memories are misty, there are still moments that were character defining in my early childhood.

“The sense of community was alive and well with such a diverse collection of people from various faiths and backgrounds.

“A lifestyle of vibrant cultural celebrations and embracing each other’s differences were all small but significant exposures I had while growing up on the island,” Sub Lieutenant Naim said.

Sub Lieutenant Naim joined the Royal Australian Navy in April 1997 as an Aviation Technician Aircraft.

He was appointed as the Chief of Navy’s Strategic Advisor on Islamic Cultural Affairs in May 2014 and in 2017 as the Navy Inter-Cultural Advisor on the formation of the Navy Diversity & Inclusion Council.

In his early career, Sub Lieutenant Naim served in 816 Squadron and in HMA Ships Sydney and Parramatta, including deployments on Operations RELEX, SLIPPER, CATALYST and FALCONER.

Currently posted to the Maritime Task Group, Sub Lieutenant Naim will gain further exposure to Fleet operations and planning, before proceeding on course.

While serving on Operation RELEX in 2001, he returned to Flying Fish Cove at Christmas Island as part of a Helicopter Flight detached to assist with Navy’s maritime operations.

“Even though it was different circumstances, being back on the island bought back those misty memories and this time I was able to share it with my Navy shipmates,” he said.

While the cultural advisor role was a major shift from Naval Aviation, Sub Lieutenant Naim credits both phases of his career as instrumental in shaping his character and values today – something he has been able to pass on to the next generation Navy workforce.

“Creating a more inclusive Navy that will nurture and support young Australians who value service to country is the long-term goal, and if I can play a part in that - then that’s all the motivation I need.

“I believe our Navy people are our future for the nation’s security and protection, but also in providing the innovation that our diverse workforce will bring.

“So now, being formally recognised for my efforts in cultural change and forwarding the intercultural agenda in Navy is not only rewarding and satisfying for me, but it also recognises the wonderful support I have received from my family unit and loved ones during my tenure.

“I am truly blessed,” he said.

Sub Lieutenant Naim’s citation reads:

Chief Petty Officer Zulkarnain Shah NAIM, ACT

For meritorious devotion to duty as the Navy Advisor on Inter-Cultural Affairs.

Chief Petty Officer Naim's inspirational leadership as the Navy Advisor on Inter-Cultural Affairs has enhanced Navy's reputation in the Australian community as an inclusive organisation. His commitment to cultural education, strategic advice, community engagement and the multi-cultural Australian Navy Cadet unit, New Training Ship Australia, has positively impacted countless young Australians. His efforts have influenced the foundation for Navy's pathway to greater diversity and inclusion.