As the Indigenous Liaison Officer for RAAF Base Williamtown, Flight Lieutenant Matthew Roberts promotes cultural understanding, builds strong community relationships and develops workforce diversity.
A proud Bundjalung man from the NSW north coast, situated on beautiful Worimi Country, Flight Lieutenant Roberts works alongside local Air Force commanders to ensure the values, thoughts, and traditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are heard across all platforms.
At its core, Flight Lieutenant Roberts' work as an ILO encourages and promotes the sharing of culture which is aimed towards mutual understanding supporting the mantra: 'Two cultures. One mission'.
"Building trust throughout our local communities is really important to us," Flight Lieutenant Roberts said.
"That’s why this begins at the grassroots level. This includes regularly visiting and contacting Local Aboriginal land councils, elders, community members and Indigenous businesses.
"We believe that if the community is on board with us then this can assist us in achieving our goal of becoming a fifth-generation Air Force."
Youth engagement is also a vital component of the ILO role.
"The Air Force’s Indigenous Youth Program (IYP) provides young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women with exposure to various skills, trades and lifestyle experiences which features in the work that we do," Flight Lieutenant Roberts said.
"The IYP provides a hands-on, risk-free experience, which showcases the range of career opportunities available within the Air Force.
"Essentially, meeting and interacting with young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women gives us the chance to mentor and hopefully inspire them to dream big and aspire for greatness.
"Whether it be as an officer or as an airmen or airwomen it is our hope, through our youth engagement initiatives young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women are aware of the career options available to them within the Royal Australian Air Force."
With a busy program and schedule of support ongoing, Flight Lieutenant Roberts also seeks to raise community awareness of the significant milestones that have shaped our collective cultures.
National Reconciliation Week is a great time to pause, reflect and grow as a community:
"Beginning on the 27th of May and finishing on the 3rd of June, National Reconciliation Week gives us a chance to reflect on and honour two major milestones within Australian history; the 1967 referendum and the High Court Mabo decision," Flight Lieutenant Roberts said.
"During this week I encourage all Australians to join with us as we continue on this journey towards true reconciliation."
With the 2020 NRW theme, 'In this together', Flight Lieutenant Roberts is convinced we are on the right track.
"I believe the journey the Air Force is on at the moment is truly a great one," he said.
"The creation of the Indigenous Liaison Officers network and the Senior Indigenous Leadership Circle has helped guide and assist the Air Force towards supporting our past and current Indigenous members whilst also creating opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women to explore a career within the Defence Force.
"The ongoing support, recognition and feedback we have received from the wider community has been fantastic. Community members have witnessed the change that has been made and they realise that the reasoning behind these actions are genuine and come from a place of mutual respect."