A sense of identity for a Seaman

Published on Ms Claudia Harrison (author), ABCSO Steven Thomson (photographer)

Location(s): Sydney, New South Wales

Seaman Combat Systems Operator Matthew Lancaster in front of the Aboriginal Flag at HMAS Watson for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) week. (photo: ABCSO Steven Thomson)
Seaman Combat Systems Operator Matthew Lancaster in front of the Aboriginal Flag at HMAS Watson for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) week.

This NAIDOC week is a time to celebrate the culture and traditions of Australia's indigenous peoples, and Navy has many proud indigenous sailors and officers who are sharing their thoughts and stories with Navy Daily.

Our next profile for NAIDOC Week, Seaman Matthew Lancaster, says that a nation’s culture resides in the hearts and soul of its people.

“The quality of your life is based on how you live it, so stand tall, proud and stay true to your values,” he said. 

Seaman Lancaster is from Rockhampton, Central Queensland, but spent much time near and on the water having attended Yeppoon State High School on the coast and becoming a Surf Life Saver. 

“One of my fondest memories during this time of my life was going on fishing trips with my dad, having nothing but the open ocean around us, just father and son,” he recalls. 

So it seemed a perfect choice for this young man to join the Royal Australian Navy.  

Seaman Lancaster is a Combat Systems Operator and has only just started the journey in finding out who he is. 

“During NAIDOC Week 2015 I will be placing central importance on my own sense of identity through my work commitments and sharing my culture amongst HMAS Tobruk’s ships company,” he said. 

“For me, NAIDOC Week allows for people to celebrate and better understand my culture and each others, through dancing and singing.

“But they first need to understand who their neighbour is, in the end, and that just like them, they have the same problems and questions in life,” he said. 

“Culture really helps people understand each other better.

“My current job with HMAS Tobruk involves collecting, correlating and disseminating information through the use of radar sensors.

“But it has been other experiences during my time on HMAS Tobruk that I have really felt a sense of purpose. 

“It will be sad to farewell her in July,” he said.

Seaman Lancaster is currently posted to HMAS Tobruk which has recently returned to Sydney ahead of her expected decommissioning in July. The ship was involved in Operation PACIFIC ASSIST earlier in the year, providing humanitarian relief following Tropical Cyclone Pam which devastated Vanuatu. 

“The most memorable moment during our mission to Vanuatu was arriving on the shore of Erramango Island and seeing the excitement of local villagers, despite the devastation they faced during Cyclone Pam” he said.

“It’s something I wont forget”.