National Reconciliation Week was marked across Australia at the end of May and at HMAS Stirling personnel gathered in respect of the traditional custodians of the region and to celebrate Navy’s Indigenous serving members.
A ceremonial flag raising occurred at traditional morning Colours, with the Australian Aboriginal Flag hoisted alongside the Australian White Ensign and the Torres Strait Islander Flag, as well as a special Welcome to Country.
Approximately 200 officers and sailors attended along with Ingrid Cumming, Whadjuk Noongar custodian and traditional owner who provided details on the indigenous history of the area.
Ms Cumming is Chief Executive Officer of Kart Koort Wiern (Head, Heart and Spirit), founded in 2010, a Perth-based Indigenous consultancy that offers training and workshops across Australia promoting reconciliation and increasing awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander strengths and strategy.
She explained that Stirling’s home of Garden Island sits on Cockburn Sound or ‘Derbal Nara’ and the island's Indigenous name was ‘Meeandip’ and from vantage points at Wayalup (south) or Fremantle (to the north) it could be seen as the shape of a crocodile.
“The island represents a salt water crocodile, a stranger to the area,” she said.
“After attempts of attacking the people of the Beeliar or river areas on Maali Beeliar or Swan River, the Dwerda Wiern or dingo spirits bit off its tail.
“My totem is the dingo and therefore I am a story carrier and spiritually connected to the area.”
Ms Cumming also led sailors through as activity called ‘Karlak Koorliny’ or ‘going to the fire’.
The significance was to celebrate a gathering of ‘wom’ or ‘strangers’ to the custodians of country. The dance incorporates a passionate cry out of ‘woolah’ or an expression of happiness at the gathering and new family and connections that are made through the ceremony.
HMAS Stirling Commanding Officer Captain Angela Bond spoke about the importance of the diversity of the Defence workforce.
“National Reconciliation Week promotes the understanding and recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and achievements,” Captain Bond said.
“It is framed between two historical turning points in the Australian reconciliation process and during this time, Australians are encouraged to celebrate the anniversaries of the 1967 referendum, and the High Court Mabo decision.”
The Australian Aboriginal Flag and Torres Strait Islander Flag were flown throughout the week across Defence establishments.