Sharing culture key to building Navy’s community

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Jessica Craig (author), LSIS Thomas Sawtell (photographer)

Location(s): La Perouse, NSW

Topic(s): Culture, NAIDOC Week, Diversity and Inclusivity

L-R: Royal Australian Navy sailors Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Jahlaya Weazel; Seaman Maritime Logistics - Supply Chain Braydon Bux; Seaman Gap Year Josh Agland; Seaman Maritime Logistics - Supply Chain Saje Wilson; and Petty Officer Cryptological Systems Supervisor Thai-Britney Demos on the Welcome to the Country Tour at La Perouse, NSW. (photo: LSIS Thomas Sawtell)
L-R: Royal Australian Navy sailors Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Jahlaya Weazel; Seaman Maritime Logistics - Supply Chain Braydon Bux; Seaman Gap Year Josh Agland; Seaman Maritime Logistics - Supply Chain Saje Wilson; and Petty Officer Cryptological Systems Supervisor Thai-Britney Demos on the Welcome to the Country Tour at La Perouse, NSW.

During NAIDOC Week, Navy people in Sydney from all backgrounds were offered the hands-on opportunity to learn about native sustenance and pharmaceuticals from an Indigenous expert.

On the coast of La Perouse, on land traditionally owned by the Bidjigal and Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, 18 personnel were taken on a cultural immersion tour to develop an understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal culture.

Tour leader, Kirra Randall from Bundjalung Country, shared her deeply personal expertise of flora and fauna with the group, from plants that aid toothaches, to traditional hairbrushes, band aids, glue and multiple ways to repel mosquitos.

Royal Australian Navy sailor Seaman Cryptologic Systems Operator Cody Thompson on the Welcome to the Country Tour at La Perouse, NSW.

Royal Australian Navy sailor Seaman Cryptologic Systems Operator Cody Thompson on the Welcome to the Country Tour at La Perouse, NSW.

Cryptologic Systems Operator Seaman Cody Thompson said she enjoyed learning about how Indigenous people relate to the land and believes it necessary for everyone to learn about their cultures.

“Not identifying as Indigenous and coming here to learn about their culture has been a remarkable experience.

“I was particularly interested in how they utilise the land and nature to their advantage such as identifying when food sources are available via the stars and flowers,” Seaman Thompson said.

“I definitely think it’s necessary to immerse ourselves in Indigenous culture as it’s important to know how to care for and enable our land to thrive and survive.”

The tour formed part of Navy’s commitment to being a culturally inclusive employer that reflects the diversity of the Australian community, and one that encourages its people to keep in touch with their cultures and actively share them with colleagues. 

To connect them to place, participants were welcomed to the tour with ochre painted on their faces (dots reflecting coastal people for the women and lines reflecting whales and warriors for the men), and were able to try some of the native foods discovered along the track.

Able Seaman Jahlaya Weazel from Wakka Wakka and Pitta Pitta Countries, said sharing her culture with Navy friends and colleagues made her feel included and reinforced Navy’s commitment to Closing the Gap.

“Our culture is about love, respect and unity.

“When we get together we have a laugh and we love sharing our knowledge and heritage, so to be given opportunities like this by Navy is amazing and meaningful to me,” Able Seaman Weazel said. 

Seaman Thompson and Able Seaman Weazel agreed that the sour native blueberries were their favourite thing to try, while Able Seaman Weazel said the unique taste of the sarsaparilla leaves and what they can do to improve health fascinated her.

Opportunities like this occur throughout the year. Navy members who would like to discover more about Indigenous culture and heritage are invited to make contact with their local Defence Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Network (DATSIN).

Royal Australian Navy sailors on the Welcome to the Country Tour at La Perouse, NSW.

Royal Australian Navy sailors on the Welcome to the Country Tour at La Perouse, NSW.