The ADF’s first Indigenous Liaison Officer for the Middle East Region, Warrant Officer Stephen Weaver, is a proud Wiradjuri man from Central NSW with more than three decades of service in the Air Force.

Warrant Officer Weaver likens his Aboriginal culture to military culture where everyone looks out for each other, and contributes to the family group.

“I consider everyone in the military to be my brother or my sister, just as everyone in my Indigenous culture is my brother, sister, auntie, uncle or cousin,” he said.

He and other ADF personnel deployed in the Middle East will commemorate Reconciliation Week from May 27 to 3 June with a variety of events, including producing a large dot painting.

“We are a long way ahead of where we used to be in terms of reconciliation, but we need to keep having honest conversations.”

Reconciliation Week is a time for all Australians to recognise our shared paths, acknowledge an often sad history and continue the path to reconciliation.

The theme this year is Grounded in Truth, Walk Together with Courage.

“We are a long way ahead of where we used to be in terms of reconciliation, but we need to keep having honest conversations,” Warrant Officer Weaver said.

His grandad, Joseph Wignall, was an Army veteran of World War II. On one occasion, he and a young Aboriginal man he served with were walking along a Sydney street when an RSL representative approached and asked if his grandad would like to become a member.When the

Aboriginal man expressed interest, he was told he could not join as he was not an Australian citizen. At that time Aboriginal people did not share the same legal standing in Australian society.

As a result, Warrant Officer Weaver’s grandfather refused to join the RSL and in the years to follow did not march on Anzac Day.

“That Aboriginal man had made the same sacrifices as my grandfather. He was willing to lay down his life for his country, yet he was not treated equally,” Warrant Officer Weaver said.

He thinks about that story every day and it reminds him to walk with courage and conviction.

“Every Air Force base now has an Indigenous Liaison Officer. They are women and men who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders and are deeply rooted in their local culture."

He said that now was a special time in his long military career because senior leaders in Defence had a high appreciation of Indigenous culture.

“Every Air Force base now has an Indigenous Liaison Officer. They are women and men who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders and are deeply rooted in their local culture,” he said.

In his role as Indigenous Liaison Officer, he provides advice to senior leaders on matters of Indigenous culture and guides and mentors Indigenous personnel.

For further information on Reconciliation Week go to: https://www.reconciliation.org.au/national-reconciliation-week/