No.1 Recruit Training Unit (1RTU) has opened a second yarning circle to inspire Indigenous cultural awareness and appreciation among staff and recruits at RAAF Base Wagga, New South Wales.

A yarning circle is a meeting place to share stories, knowledge and experience in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island cultures. It is also a peaceful place where everyone’s voice and opinions are heard and respected. 

Local Wiradjuri elders were at the yarning circle’s official opening ceremony at RAAF Base Wagga on July 26, and Indigenous recruits carried out a smoking ceremony to cleanse the area and ward off bad spirits. 

Flight Lieutenant Judy Bell, Indigenous liaison officer for RAAF Base Wagga, takes part in the smoking ceremony during opening of a second Yarning Circle at No.1 Recruit Training Unit at RAAF Base Wagga. Photo: Sergeant Rodney Welch.

The commanding officer of 1RTU, Wing Commander Dan Drinan, said the unit’s first yarning circle was established in 2018.

“The first yarning circle aimed to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recruits from the Defence Indigenous pre-recruit program through the development of a connection to history and culture whilst being away from their communities,” Wing Commander Drinan said.

“The benefits of having a yarning circle for the program quickly became apparent as it encouraged recruits to share their experiences, knowledge and stories. 

“It also became a place to settle disputes peacefully and a safe space to reflect.”

In addition to the yarning circles, 1RTU is now working with the Air Force’s senior Indigenous leadership circle to develop a cultural awareness training program for all Air Force recruits. The program forms part of Air Force’s Indigenous ‘Our Place, Our Skies’ strategy.

“The program will seek to reinforce the importance of workforce diversity in delivering air power and highlight the unique skill sets, knowledge and perspective that Indigenous members bring to the Defence force,” Wing Commander Drinan said.

“It also raises awareness of the historical challenges and sacrifices faced by past and serving Indigenous members in their contributions to the defence of Australia.

“The yarning circles and awareness program will assist with increasing individual and collective understanding of connections to people and place, history and culture, spirit and belonging.”

He thanked Gavin Garvie’s Spotless Land Management Services for its support during the construction of the yarning circle and Mark Sadler for providing important cultural advice.