Navy has appointed a full-time Navy Indigenous Adviser (NIA) as part of its commitment to the government’s Defence Reconciliation Action Plan (D-RAP) 2019-2022.

In appointing Lieutenant Commander Samuel Sheppard to the role of full-time NIA in a virtual promotion ceremony on May 21, Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Mike Noonan said LCDR Sheppard would play a key role in the continuing development and implementation of the D-RAP.

“The appointment of a full-time adviser recognises the importance of this role as Navy continues to work towards the long-term desired outcomes of this ‘stretch’ Reconciliation Action Plan,” VADM Noonan said.

“The NIA, in leading the development and implementation of the plan, will provide the cultural advice required to Navy’s senior leadership team, Diversity and Inclusion Council and all commands at sea and ashore.

“This will ensure Navy achieves our D-RAP commitment and contributes positively to the shared future of our nation.

“It will also enhance Navy’s engagement with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities wherever we interact with those communities.”

Originally from far north Queensland, LCDR Sheppard is a member of the Muluridji People and is proud of his cultural heritage.

Based at HMAS Stirling, he said being named the NIA was an honour and a highlight of his 21-year career.

“This appointment provides me with the opportunity to guide Navy in the formulation and implementation of policy and to complete our D-RAP aims,” he said.

“It also allows me to provide cultural advice and to be a point of contact for Indigenous members and divisional staff for feedback and suggestions on Indigenous programs and reference material.

“My priority is to establish a ‘roadmap’ that will plan Navy’s approach to meeting the deliverables of the action plan – through these there are great opportunities for Navy to contribute to Closing the Gap initiatives.”

LCDR Sheppard said his appointment to the role of NIA would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of his predecessor, Commander Bert Slape, who held the position in an ancillary role.

“I would like to thank CMDR Slape for his dedicated commitment to raising awareness and supporting Navy’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members, and for enhancing cultural inclusion,” he said.

“I have worked closely with CMDR Slape during the past few months and look forward to continuing that relationship as I take up my new role.”

At the same ceremony, VADM Noonan appointed Commodore Mal Wise as Navy Indigenous Champion, a role which will see him act as an advocate for Indigenous participation within Defence.

Through his role as Navy Indigenous Champion, CDRE Wise will also drive cultural awareness through Navy-specific and whole-of-Defence initiatives.

One such initiative is to work with Navy’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members to capture our Australian Navy heritage and reinforce links to our First Nations People.