Leading Aircraftwoman Petrea Saunders, a Butchulla woman from Fraser Island, is proud to be representing Australia on Operations in the Middle East during National Reconciliation Week.

“It is important we come together to acknowledge Indigenous Australia’s history and reconcile,” Leading Aircraftwoman Saunders said. 

She believes true reconciliation is about all Australian cultures coming together and having open and honest conversations and friendships to understand one another and head towards the same goals.

“A big part of Reconciliation Week for me is about educating those who seek to understand my culture and listen with their binangs [ears] and achieve reconciliation in Australia,” Leading Aircraftwoman Saunders said.

“Do you know my culture, like I know western culture?” 

Since joining the Air Force as a supplier in 2017, Leading Aircraftwoman Saunders has taken opportunities within Defence to advocate for and engage with Indigenous communities. 

“I have been a mentor with the Richmond-based Indigenous Youth Program and have completed a Certificate IV in Indigenous Leadership,” Leading Aircraftwoman Saunders said.

“In 2019 I had the opportunity to fly to Lake Cargelligo with the Air Force as part of their Indigenous community engagement. I’ve also played in the touch football knockout during NAIDOC Week and helped Defence Force Recruiting run their stalls for the Girls Academy in Sydney. 

“Since my enlistment, I haven’t looked back. I am now studying a Bachelor of Nursing to further my career. 

“This is my identity and I am proud to be who I am and where I am today.”

Leading Aircraftwoman Saunders is deployed with No. 37 Squadron, which flies the C-130J Hercules aircraft as part of the Air Task Group on Operation Accordion. 

National Reconciliation Week is held from May 27 to June 3 every year. During this week, Australian’s are encouraged to reflect on our shared histories, contribution and achievements and build on the respectful relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians.