As HMAS Newcastle patrolled the Indian Ocean in support of Operation MANITOU, the sound of the didgeridoo and singing from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ quartet rang out from the galley.
The celebration was for NAIDOC Week and the crew were treated to an accompanying banquet fit for a traditional family gathering.
The event’s mastermind was Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics - Chef Nick Collins who wanted to ensure Newcastle’s crew celebrated the history, culture and achievements of its impressive Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community with fitting recognition.
To make the celebration a success Leading Seaman Collins and the galley team gathered as many of the required ingredients as possible during the ship’s recent port visit to the Seychelles.
With sound advice from the indigenous experts, the menu was precisely planned to bring the ship’s company an array of food inspired by the pristine waters of Arnhem Land to the Great Melanesian and Polynesian islands, and the Spinifex deserts of the Red Centre.
The ship’s company queued in anticipation and were surprised to find the ship’s Indigenous members playing traditional tunes on the didgeridoo, wearing traditional mugra and ocre (face paint) with traditional head attire, ready to serve the food.
The delicacies included magpie goose stir fry, wild turkey kumara coconut curry, crocodile tail poached in water lilly and desserts ranging from native coco bean coconut panna cotta to Queensland mango rice pudding to satisfy the fussiest of taste buds.
Newcastle’s Indigenous sailors, Leading Seamen Combat Systems Operators Khory Beezley and Rebecca Florance and Able Seamen Boatswains Mates Kaleb Cohen, Alan Patterson, Desmond Taylor and Kyh Mye agreed that the celebration meal onboard was a beautiful and special occasion and that they were all proud to be part of a ship’s company that recognises and celebrates such an important part of their culture.
Able Seaman Patterson said the Indigenous recruiting program and the positive culture in Newcastle were proving successful.
“The number of indigenous personnel in Newcastle is proof of that,” he said.
“We hope our success and the respect and recognition we are shown onboard will help the younger generation of Indigenous personnel better themselves and be proud to represent their family and culture as part of the Navy on operational deployment."
Leading Seaman Florance, Newcastle’s only female Indigenous member, was delighted with the show of support.
“I was impressed by the ship’s company being able to support our culture onboard and it was a memorable experience to be able to prepare and serve traditional meals to my Newcastle family," she said.
"I am proud to be part of one ship, one culture and one family."
NAIDOC Week is held annually to recognise and celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Indigenous Australians have a long and rich history of contributing to the defence of Australia.