A posting to NUSHIP Supply caused some personal conflict for Able Seaman Jahlaya Weazal, but also provided an opportunity to establish the on-board philosophy of ‘one ship, many stories’.
From a young age, Able Seaman Weazel was taught to be proud of her Indigenous culture.
She grew up in the Aboriginal community Woorabinda in Central Queensland and is a Murri woman, descendant of the Wakka Wakka and Pitta Pitta people.
“My great-grandparents were forcibly removed from their traditional homelands and were unable to practise their culture or speak their languages,” Able Seaman Weazel said.
“I am currently on my own journey exploring and learning the history, stories and traditions. It is giving me that sense of belonging and identity.”
On her posting to NUSHIP Supply, Able Seaman Weazel said she initially had unsettled feelings about the ship’s link to the First Fleet. It is named after one of the vessels in the First Fleet.
“The arrival of the First Fleet introduced diseases and led to massacres, which reduced our existence,” she said.
“I needed to unpack my inner conflict on serving in a ship bearing this history and acknowledge the trauma my people went through after the First Fleet arrived.
“The commanding officer approached me and we had an honest conversation about how I felt and agreed we acknowledge the past, but move forward together on a positive note.
“This led to establishing our ship’s philosophy of ‘one ship, many stories’.
“The ship has gone above and beyond what I expected. My doubts were addressed quickly which was humbling yet satisfying.”
Able Seaman Weazel said the ship created a space where she could be comfortable in expressing herself without judgement.
She said NAIDOC Week earlier this month was a time for Australia to celebrate, become educated and share culture, traditions and identities of First Nations’ people.
“This year’s theme, Always Was, Always Will Be, evokes an intrinsic spiritual strength of character for an Aboriginal person,” she said.
“Our connection to country is second to none. This is shown by our stories, songlines, totems and cultural practices.
“Throughout my time, I have witnessed our culture get louder and stronger.
“Following this year’s theme, our challenge for the future will be to work together to not only acknowledge our differences, but to respect and embrace them.
“I believe acknowledging and respecting these differences can bring us together as a country and challenge us to grow as a country and human beings.”