As Indigenous Liaison Officers (ILOs), Flight Lieutenants Tjapukai Shaw and Steven Warrior build relationships in their local communities.
This National Reconciliation Week (May 27 to June 3), as they look to the future and consider their Air Force careers, Flight Lieutenants Shaw and Warrior are reflecting on the mentoring relationships they have established within the workforce.
Working on RAAF Bases Richmond and Edinburgh respectively has shown Flight Lieutenants Shaw and Warrior the possibilities of an Air Force career and they are considering taking on the challenge of aircrew or pilot training following their current postings.
"The role of pilot never really caught my attention until I joined Air Force," Flight Lieutenant Warrior said.
"Having the support of people around me, here on base and in the wider Air Force, has made me realise that becoming a pilot is a real option."
Flight Lieutenant Shaw said he loved being an ILO and was now exploring a long-term career in Air Force.
"I want to pursue the aircrew or pilot role," Flight Lieutenant Shaw said.
I definitely want to play a part in breaking down those barriers, showing Aboriginal people that this is another career path for us.
"As an Aboriginal person, not seeing any Aboriginal people as pilots I think creates a perceived barrier for Aboriginal people, it can feel as if it's out of reach.
"I definitely want to play a part in breaking down those barriers, showing Aboriginal people that this is another career path for us."
To guide the next phase of their career development, Flight Lieutenants Shaw and Warrior have reached out to mentors whose experience they can learn from.
One of those mentors is Air Commodore Darren Goldie, who says his relationship with Flight Lieutenants Shaw and Warrior provides mutual benefit.
"I can offer a career’s worth of experience navigating the Air Force system. At the same time, spending time with future leaders like Flight Lieutenants Warrior and Shaw provides perspective and assists me in making decisions that work for our contemporary Air Force," Air Commodore Goldie said.
Flight Lieutenant Warrior said he valued the practical advice Air Commodore Goldie could offer from lessons learned during his career as a pilot and commander.
"Talking with Air Commodore Goldie has given me an insight into not only what’s required to become a pilot, but the life of a pilot as well," Flight Lieutenant Warrior said.
"I’ve had a chat with him about how he’s overcome some of the hurdles that he’s faced in that role, such as spending a lot of time away from home and from family."
For Flight Lieutenant Shaw, Air Commodore Goldie’s observations on flying operations offered essential guidance."The role of a pilot – it’s just such a different world and we need someone with experience to help guide us through it," Flight Lieutenant Shaw said.
"Air Commodore Goldie has been willing to offer advice and it’s certainly helping me navigate my way through this new world."
He said the mentoring relationship offered another way to share his Indigenous culture.
"It can be as simple as a phone call, it only takes that conversation to start sharing the two worlds and the two cultures," Flight Lieutenant Shaw said.
Being able to bring some of my own culture in and share some of the ways we do things, it’s pretty amazing.
"The language I use, it’s the language that I grew up with.
"Coming into an organisation like Air Force that is coming up on its hundredth birthday, that’s got its own language and its own mannerisms – being able to bring some of my own culture in and share some of the ways we do things, it’s pretty amazing."
Air Commodore Goldie agreed, saying he was learning a lot from his discussions with Flight Lieutenants Warrior and Shaw.
"Steve and Tjapukai are educating me in some of the important considerations for Air Force in managing diversity through our Indigenous workforce and programs," Air Commodore Goldie said.
"An example is relationship with Country. We all feel a tie to locations, whether they be where we grew up, or where our friends or families live.
"I have learned how this can be different for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander personnel and their relationship with Country. We need to continue the good work being done in providing posting locations that drive productivity for our entire workforce."
The two ILOs agree that they would like to mentor others in the future.
"In Adelaide, we’ve got a lot of young Aboriginal boys and girls who look up to other members of the community and what they’re doing," Flight Lieutenant Warrior said.
"I would like to reach out and mentor some of the Aboriginal youth down here. I think being a mentor, being someone young people can talk to and ask questions of - is something I’d definitely want to do."
Flight Lieutenant Shaw said he had often found himself in a leadership role while growing up.
"I’ve got four younger siblings and I’ve tried to be a role model to them to the best that I can – even though they can be stubborn," he said laughing.
"I definitely see myself mentoring others in the future, it offers the chance to advocate for Aboriginal people and share culture to create an inclusive environment like the one we have here in Air Force."