Years ago, when Private Cody Harris saw an Indigenous man with a didgeridoo leading a procession of soldiers on Anzac Day, he thought to himself, ‘How do I do that?’
The image was front of mind when Private Harris put up his hand earlier this year to play at a ceremony recognising soldiers just returned from Afghanistan.
Now, the Wiradjuri man from Central Coast NSW and his didgeridoo are familiar sights at Army events all over Townsville.
As one of the only uniformed Indigenous men in the area who play the didgeridoo, Private Harris, who is posted to 10th Force Support Battalion, has been busy representing his mob and Army at community events and ceremonies.
“There are not many black fellas out there that can play the didgeridoo,” Private Harris said.
“It’s an important tool and I get a good feeling to be able to bring my culture to Defence.”
Private Harris started playing the didgeridoo 12 years ago at high school.
He said the technique of circular breathing was difficult to master but he was passionate about learning the didgeridoo as a way of connecting with his Indigenous heritage.
It wasn’t until recently that he was able to bring his passion for the instrument to the workplace.
He has performed almost 30 times this year at schools, sporting events and ceremonies, including dozens of events on Anzac Day, for audiences such as senior politicians and Army leadership.
Bookings are already coming in for next year, according to 3rd Brigade Uncle and Local Observer Elder Warrant Officer Class Two (WO2) David Boye, who hoped to increase the scope of Indigenous involvement in Army’s bands, such as the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment band.
WO2 Boye said he was discussing how to formalise Indigenous involvement with brigade musical events but was mindful of the time requirement to learn the didgeridoo and the impact on soldiers’ training schedule.
“I would like to have a weekly or fortnightly get together for training and learning,” WO2 Boye said.
“We are having conversations about how to do that in this increased tempo environment.”