While COVID-19 has meant the cancellation of traditional Anzac Day dawn services and parades, RAAF Base Townsville is taking time for private reflection, with a special acknowledgement of Australia’s Indigenous Diggers.

For more than a century, Indigenous personnel have provided and continue to provide a vital contribution to Defence capability.

More than 1000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people served in World War I (1914-1918) and about 70 fought at Gallipoli. At least 3000 Aboriginal and 850 Torres Strait Islander people served in World War II (1939-1945). They have played a role in every conflict and peace mission since, on the front line and behind the scenes.

Flight Lieutenant David Williams is the Indigenous Liaison Officer with No. 27 Squadron at RAAF Base Townsville.

Originally from Mount Isa, he is a proud Mitakoodi man with family heritage coming from Kalkadoon and Waanyi mobs.

This year will be his third Anzac Day in uniform.

He said the contribution of Indigenous soldiers was not widely known nor recognised.

"For me personally, this Anzac Day I will be remembering my great grandfather who was a Kalkadoon Warrior and fought in World War II," Flight Lieutenant Williams said

"He is an inspiration to me. He saw a lot of hardship in his time in Defence, not being able to celebrate coming back home or march with his mates.

"Through all those hardships he continued to serve and protect his country just like many other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women.

"I wear my uniform with pride because of him, because of many other service men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect this beautiful country."

Wing Commander Alan Brown from Townsville’s No. 383 Squadron has a particular passion for Indigenous Australia. 

The squadron has introduced an engagement strategy aimed at inspiring and raising awareness among young Indigenous Australians of the career opportunities available within the ADF. 

The squadron recently hosted a group of students from Townsville’s NRL Cowboys House, a boarding centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from remote and disadvantaged communities.

"Our engagements are very focused on two-way conversations, where students are able to learn about the Air Force and the various careers available and our 383SQN members learn from the students," Wing Commander Brown said.

Wing Commander Brown explained the role of 383SQN and how the squadron provides expeditionary airbase operations, often in remote locations around the world and supports aircraft in achieving their missions. Fittingly, the squadron’s emblem is the Woomera, an Aboriginal spear-throwing tool. 

"The idea behind the Woomera is 'pushing things forward' which is particularly apt for the trying times we’re now facing," Wing Commander Brown said.

"We visit a lot of places talking to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids and always take the Woomera. 

"It’s an ancient tool that helps make the Aboriginal spear go faster and strike further so it has a great connection to what the squadron does to assist in the projection of airpower. It represents our role well and the kids can really relate to it."

As at February 1, 2020, 2.8 per cent (2847 personnel) of Defence personnel (Permanent ADF, Active Reserve and APS) identify as Indigenous.

Defence continues to make progress against the Government’s Indigenous employment and procurement targets, however, there is still more work to be done.