NAIDOC Week in the Shoalhaven region of New South Wales was one of the busiest ever. Celebrations commenced on Monday with the official launch and raising of the Torres Strait Islander, Aboriginal and Australian flags and the program of activities that followed included a memorial service for Indigenous veterans, a soccer tournament, a mass photo opportunity and a family fun day.
HMAS Albatross Commanding Officer Captain Simon Bateman said the week was an important event in the community calendar.
“NAIDOC provides an opportunity for Australians of all backgrounds to come together and celebrate Indigenous history, heritage and culture and it’s very gratifying to see both Indigenous and non-Indigenous personnel participating in all aspects of this celebration," he said.
“I attended the service at the Nowra War Memorial earlier in the week and really appreciated the opportunity it gave me to pay my respects to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have served in our Defence forces.
“I also attended the Family Fun Day and really enjoyed the atmosphere - it was great that we Navy could be part of such a big family event through the participation of our helicopter and the local community engagement team,” Captain Bateman said.
The aptly named 'Fun Day' is always a popular drawing big crowds with a diverse range of stalls and entertainment. HMAS Albatross Community Engagement Team members Leading Seaman Jan Gilmour and Able Seaman Terren Bennet were kept busy throughout the day with activities which attracted both children and parents.
“Our stall was a great space for interacting with the community,” Leading Seaman Gilmour said.
“While the children got creative we got to talk to their parents and we had some really enjoyable conversations, answering questions about careers in Defence but also getting a real sense of how much Albatross means to the local community.”
Able Seaman Bennett had the task of arranging several hundred participants to form the word 'NAIDOC' across the showground so that Navy's 723 Squadron could fly over and capture an aerial shot from a Bell 429 helicopter. Picture taken, they landed on the oval and excited children had the opportunity to quiz the crew and experience the view from the pilot’s seat.
To wrap up the week, the inaugural NAIDOC Cup for soccer occurred on 10 July - coordinated by the Navy.
Navy Football Federation Director Lieutenant Commander Jim Ford said the seven-a-side football tournament was a fun event with serious objectives.
“Navy personnel travelled from Canberra and Sydney to combine with local players from HMAS Albatross," he said.
“In total there were three teams, two veterans' teams and a men's open team and to playing against local Indigenous teams including one from the Wreck Bay community.
“It’s a great way to promote football at grass roots level within the Navy and to support and celebrate NAIDOC Week."