When Recruit Private Luke Nona first heard about the Army Indigenous Development Program (AIDP), he jumped at the chance to join. 

The AIDP is a pathway for Indigenous Australians who wish to join the Army, but who do not meet the general-entry standards.

Recruit Nona said there were a lot of Indigenous people wanting to join the Army but struggle because of their schooling.

“This is my third time trying out for the Defence Force,” Private Nona said.

“My schooling let me down in the first two attempts.

“But this time, the recruiting officer asked if I wanted to do the AIDP.”

At 33, Recruit Nona is the oldest graduate from Intake 15 of the AIDP in Darwin.

Indigenous Development Wing of the Regional Force Surveillance Group Colonel John Papalitsas runs the program in Darwin. 

He said the AIDP was critical to the development of Army’s cultural capability.

“It’s also important to the RFSG’s mission of protecting the border and closing the gap,” Colonel Papalitsas said.

All of them develop levels of resilience and fill out physically.

The AIDP graduation for Intake 15 was held in June at RFSG Training and Education Centre (RTEC) at Defence Establishment Berrimah.

RTEC will host two five-month residential AIDP courses each year, and a variety of career development and specialist courses for members of Regional Force Surveillance Units.

Officer Commanding Indigenous Development Wing Major Steven Parker said the AIDP was a lifeline for those Indigenous men and women who sign up to it.

“Every single recruit on this course was told ‘no’ by Defence Force Recruiting when it came to direct entry,” Major Parker said. 

“This program allows them to rectify the shortfall, whether it be related to education, aptitude, fitness or resilience.”

He said there was a noticeable development over the course.

“Some step up and become leaders,” Major Parker said.

“All of them develop levels of resilience and fill out physically.”

The next step for the recruits is Kapooka and the Army’s 80-day basic training program.

Recruit Nona said he was already thinking ahead.

“We’ve had a head start so we’ll engage with the other recruits and help them on their way,” he said.