For Bandjalung soldier Lance Corporal Jamaya Gray, National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is an invitation for all Australians to understand and share culture, and to work together to achieve reconciliation.

Held annually between May 27 and June 3, NRW acknowledges the importance of building respectful relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and non-Indigenous Australians.

Hailing from Bundjalung Country on the northern NSW coast, Lance Corporal Gray works at Headquarters 17th Sustainment Brigade as a driver.

“NRW is a time to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia, and foster a better representation of our national story,” Lance Corporal Gray said.

“This week serves as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between First Nations, Torres Strait and non-Indigenous people, and promote responsible and respectful conversations about our histories, cultures an achievements.”

The 2022 NRW theme ‘Be brave. Make change’, is a challenge to all Australians to tackle the unfinished business of reconciliation so we can make change for the benefit of all Australians.

In her four years in the Army, Lance Corporal Gray has had an exciting career in the Australian Defence Force as an Air Dispatcher, and borne witness to the incremental changes towards the NRW theme. 

“We are striving to achieve connection with culture and the land, which we work and exercise on,” Lance Corporal Gray said.

“The tapestry of Australia is made up of various Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures, and the Australian Army is no exception to this. Indigenous culture is a part of Defence culture.

“We don’t only practise reconciliation this week; we do it every day through Welcome to Country introductions, inviting local mobs to perform smoking ceremonies, and the steps we’re taking to recruit Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders.”

While she doesn’t normally enjoy drawing attention to herself, Lance Corporal Gray recognises her opportunity to be an ambassador for her cultures, and become a role model and leader for her community back home. 

“Indigenous people tend to gravitate towards one another; we’re very family and community-centric,” she said.

“Leaving my community in Ballina was hard, but joining Defence meant joining a new and different community.

“We’re all individuals when we join, but when you’re in the uniform we’re all equal, under the same values and working for a common goal – one where we can ‘be brave’, and ‘make the change’ we want to see.”

The dates for NRW commemorate National Sorry Day, the 1967 Referendum, and the High Court Mabo decision. 

“These important dates are also a time to reflect on The Stolen Generations, and how far we have come in Australia’s reconciliation journey,” Lance Corporal Gray said. 

“Eventually my hopes are that any workplace in Australia won’t be working towards reconciliation, but instead we will be in a state of reconciliation.” 

Defence’s primary mission is to protect Australia and its national interests. A diverse workforce supported by an inclusive culture enhances Defence’s capability and effectiveness, as it draws on different ideas to innovate and adapt to the rapidly evolving strategic environment and the changing character of warfare.

For more information about National Reconciliation Week, go to: //nrw.reconciliation.org.au/