HMAS Cerberus Welcomes Country

Published on SBLT Kat Mulheron (author), ABIS Cassie McBride (photographer), ABIS James McDougall (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Cerberus, VIC

Topic(s): Ceremony and Traditions, HMAS Cerberus, NAIDOC Week

Commanding Officer HMAS Cerberus, Captain Stephen Bowater OAM, RAN (left) and Local Elder and CEO of the Boonwurrung Foundation, Aunty Carolyn Briggs, unveil the Acknowledgment of Country plaque at HMAS Cerberus, Victoria. (photo: ABIS Cassie McBride)
Commanding Officer HMAS Cerberus, Captain Stephen Bowater OAM, RAN (left) and Local Elder and CEO of the Boonwurrung Foundation, Aunty Carolyn Briggs, unveil the Acknowledgment of Country plaque at HMAS Cerberus, Victoria.

HMAS Cerberus gathered its people to recognise the traditional owners of the Cerberus land by officially unveiling an Acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians plaque, observing a Welcome to Country and being part of an Indigenous smoking ceremony. The day’s events combined the significant traditions of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with those of the Royal Australian Navy.

Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, added presence to the occasion by attending the plaque unveiling ceremony and later by acting as Reviewing Officer for the Winter Ceremonial Divisions where over 900 sailors, soldiers, airmen and airwomen stood proudly on parade.

Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, AO, CSC, RAN, addresses the parade during Divisions at HMAS Cerberus, Victoria.

Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, AO, CSC, RAN, addresses the parade during Divisions at HMAS Cerberus, Victoria.

Special guest Senior Boonwurrung Elder Carolyn Briggs explained the rich history of the Aboriginal people, from their origins to the many achievements today.

During the Indigenous smoking ceremony, Elder Dean Stewart enlightened attendees on the unique symbolism of the ceremony which represented the welcome and acceptance of visitors to the land, the exchange of friendship and protection and honouring community; those past and present.

Mr Dean Stewart explains the significance of the Indigenous Smoking Ceremony to guests attending the Acknowledgement of Country Plaque unveiling ceremony, at HMAS Cerberus, Victoria.

Mr Dean Stewart explains the significance of the Indigenous Smoking Ceremony to guests attending the Acknowledgement of Country Plaque unveiling ceremony, at HMAS Cerberus, Victoria.

During the Welcome to Country, Elder Carolyn Briggs shared a story, telling of the coming of the Europeans who did not follow their laws or respect their land. The old wise men and women were consulted on what they should do. They responded that a vision told of a period of much upheaval and despair, followed by a new world with the strength and the power of a common nation.

“I feel a great pride when visitors feel honoured to be able to share the rich Indigenous heritage of this country. Today it is my hope that we can all take pride in this shared history and celebrate the strength of this great state,” Ms Briggs said.

While connecting with a part of his own community, Vice Admiral Barrett also spent time with the Recruits and the staff of the Royal Australian Navy’s Recruit School, and Cerberus' ship’s company. Just weeks into his tenure as Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Barrett felt it was appropriate that one of his first official visits be to the Navy’s largest training establishment, where the majority of Navy’s people start their journey to becoming a part of the wider Navy family.

“I’m not looking at my position as Chief of Navy as a stepping stone. My aim here over the next four years is not about working to impress anyone else. I’m here to work for you, to work for us,” Vice Admiral Barrett said.

With NAIDOC Week recently passed, Vice Admiral Barrett urged all to acknowledge not only the traditional land owners but the service of the thousands of Indigenous Australians that have selflessly served the country, concluding that it was only right and proper that we acknowledge their service and their culture.