Building bridges between Navy and the world’s oldest surviving culture is a full-time job for Petty Office Jordon Bradshaw, and one he says is “vital” for reconciliation within Defence.
Petty Officer Bradshaw is a Dhunghutti and Bundjalung man, and is currently the regional Indigenous development coordinator for the Shoalhaven district.
Part of Petty Officer Bradshaw’s job is helping commanders understand the cultural differences between Navy and Indigenous service personnel, including those from remote communities.
“It's recognising that assistance can be required for some of our younger members, considering where they've come from,” Petty Officer Bradshaw said.
“Some of them have never seen a city, never been on a train.”
Petty Officer Bradshaw said the need for Indigenous personnel to return home when deaths occurred in the family was an example where communication with command was important.
“It may not be their immediate family, as stated in policy, but there are aunties and uncles who are like their mothers and fathers,” he said.
“It is important to help command understand it was a cultural responsibility that the member goes home.”
Petty Officer Bradshaw recently played his didgeridoo at the Anzac Day dawn service at Gallipoli in Turkey.
“To take the sounds of the kookaburra and dingo to the spirits of our veterans – remind them of Australia and that we're still here and haven't forgotten – was amazing,” Petty Officer Bradshaw said.
With the sounds of his didgeridoo, Petty Officer Bradshaw told a story about the spirit of the owl, which he and his family have a close connection to.
“The whole piece was to acknowledge the struggles that our First Nation's people, veterans, families and friends from Australia, New Zealand and Turkey face from all wars,” he said.
Petty Officer Bradshaw said Indigenous personnel were fighting for Australians to understand and educate themselves about Australia’s often-ignored history.
But he said there had been a lot of progress within Defence in the variety of positions and policies designed to support Indigenous relations.
“It shows from a Defence perspective that they're serious about reconciliation by having these positions where we can support our members,” Petty Officer Bradshaw said.
“We recruit well, but we need to retain them [Indigenous people], and retaining them is found in looking after them.”
Petty Officer Bradshaw said one great thing about his culture was how long it had survived.
“It's the oldest living culture in the world,” he said.
“I love listening to all the stories – Dreamtime, the absolute connection to land, the stars and the seasons.”