Navy's Indigenous leader

Published on LEUT Lauren Rago (author), Mrs Lauren Larking (photographer)

Chief Petty Officer Ray Rosendale at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. (photo: Mrs Lauren Larking)
Chief Petty Officer Ray Rosendale at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Navy Strategic Advisor on Indigenous Cultural Affairs, Chief Petty Officer Ray Rosendale, is one of the Royal Australian Navy’s proudest change makers as he helps Navy grow a professionally diverse workforce and mentors its young Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander members.
 
Chief Rosendale is an Indigenous Australian himself, born in Nambour with family in Hopevale, just north of Cooktown, Queensland. He joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1991 at the age of 26 as what was known then as a Quartermaster Gunner, the category preceding today’s Boatswain’s Mate.
 
In 1990 Chief Rosendale was inspired to join the Navy by his uncle who prompted him to do something great, and that something great he certainly did achieve with a wonderful career spanning HMAS Canberra (II), Patrol Boats, selection for Naval Police Coxswain and now his current role as Indigenous Affairs Advisor for the Senior Service.
 
“When I joined the Navy in the 90’s I knew only two senior sailors and two other junior sailors who were Indigenous Australians.

Chief Petty Officer Ray Rosendale addresses the gathered crowd attending the 2014 Defence NAIDOC Ceremony held at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Chief Petty Officer Ray Rosendale addresses the gathered crowd attending the 2014 Defence NAIDOC Ceremony held at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.


 
“They spoke to me very honestly about the challenges I might face; it was a different Navy back then - ‘life in a blue suit’ meant everyone needed to be same, so if you were different, you actually worked hard at not being different.
 
“In Navy today, it makes no difference who you are, where you come from, what you look like, as long as you’re a professional, work hard and follow Navy’s Values - that’s what’s important. It now makes no difference to the Navy if you’re different.”
 
Chief Rosendale said a high point for change in his eyes was New Generation Navy, introduced just over five years ago.
 
“The new, positive and inclusive culture is so ingrained in how we do business and who we are as an organisation. I know it sounds like the party line but I really truly do see the difference. Now, if something’s not right we fix it,” he said.
 
A major part of Chief Rosendale’s job is engaging with Indigenous communities throughout Australia to help enhance understanding and improve Indigenous recruitment.
 
“There is huge synergy between the Navy and Indigenous Australia, and the communities I meet with have a lot of positive feelings towards Navy, but like every community it’s sometimes easy to only see the stereotypes.
 
“It’s about dispelling the stereotypes either organisation may see of each other. We need to bring them together and educate each other, ultimately making Navy an employer of choice.”
 
Chief Rosendale said the community leaders he speaks to are very positive about a future friendship with Navy.
 
“They understand that when we say we’ll look after their young people we mean it. They trust us to bring back their young people educated, more confident in life skills and able to lead their communities into the future.
 
“The young sailors and officers are coming back to their communities as positive role models for other young people, showing them they can be a successful Australian and Indigenous at the same time. They don’t have to give up their cultural heritage to be successful.”
 
Back in the office or travelling to Navy bases around the country, Chief Rosendale has an open door approach, welcoming any Navy people in for a chat.
 
“I am very pleased to be able to talk to Navy people about how they are going, what is making them happy or unhappy, to be a sounding board for someone who needs a little advice. It is a very good feeling.”
 
Chief Rosendale currently resides in Cairns and is married to Anna with two teenage children, Daniel and Hayley.