The crocodile and boomerang at the centre of the Combat Survival Training School (CSTS) crest at RAAF Base Townsville has taken on new meaning for staff and visitors.

Local artist Linda Oliver produced an Indigenous-themed artwork featuring a reworking of the crest’s central elements, which will take pride of place in the CSTS foyer.

Linda said she jumped at the opportunity to do the artwork when asked by Administration Officer Flight Sergeant Billie-Jean Hewson. 

“I said yes straight away not even knowing what it really was about,” Linda said. 

“I’ve been painting crocodiles for more than 20 years. It’s one of my grandfather’s totems from the KuKu-yalangi tribe.” 

Flight Sergeant Hewson, who also has Indigenous heritage, knew the painting would have special significance to the school.

“The artwork is going to mean a lot to our unit. We’re getting more involved in bush tucker as part of our survival training, which has a strong Indigenous connection and it will also highlight the cultural diversity within our unit,” Flight Sergeant Hewson said. 

Commanding Officer CSTS Squadron Leader Simon Longley said he had a clear vision for the artwork. 

“Linda and I discussed the ‘Our Place Our Skies’ strategy and spoke about my vision for an artwork that would complement that strategy and the emblems on our unit crest,” Squadron Leader Longley said. 

This beautiful piece of art is a prime example of two cultures coming together to make a change.

The school’s crest design reflects the unit’s motto of 'adapt and return'. The boomerang illustrates the capability of downed aircrew to return. The crocodile is recognised as one of nature’s great survivors, symbolic of the CSTS mission to train aircrews to successfully adapt and evade enemy capture.

“The Air Force Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategy has numerous vectors to enhance our people capability,” Squadron Leader Longley said. 

“Prominent among these is cultural engagement and cultural awareness, and it was on that basis that I thought we could look at our unit crest and create a traditional artwork that aligns to our unit motto.” 

Indigenous Liaison Officer Flight Lieutenant David Williams was at the unveiling. 

“This beautiful piece of art is a prime example of two cultures coming together to make a change,” Flight Lieutenant Williams said. 

“Watching Linda during the unveiling of the artwork was definitely a highlight of my career.

“She was truly proud and the reaction of CSTS members during the unveiling of the artwork was overwhelmingly positive and welcoming. 

“That’s what is important, the connection to culture which made this engagement meaningful for not only the RAAF but to Linda as well.”

Squadron Leader Longley said the art work would be an important focus of discussion for visitors to the school for years to come. 

“This is part of Air Force’s continuing efforts to positively engage with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to share knowledge and build trust,” he said.