Being the first in a significant personal or career role is something most of us aspire to, but the first Indigenous Elder in the Australian Defence Force had no such goal. It happened because Air Marshal Geoff Brown recognised leadership, humility and excellence in Warrant Officer Uncle Harry Allie.
Appointed Indigenous Elder of the Royal Australian Air Force in 2012, Uncle Harry was inspired to join the Air Force when, early in life, he saw photos of his uncles and aunt in uniform at his grandmother's house.
"I am a Charters Towers-born descendant of the Gudjala tribal group who are recognised as the traditional custodians in that area," Uncle Harry said.
"I first started work with the Postmaster-General’s Department, but in 1966 I enlisted in the Air Force in Townsville.
"It was the beginning of a wonderful career where I reached the rank of Warrant Officer before discharging in 1989."
During his career, Uncle Harry was assigned to McClelland Air Force Base in the United States helping with the delivery of Australia's iconic F-111C aircraft.
Uncle Harry holds a Medal of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for Meritorious Service (BEM) earned during his Air Force career.
"I was invited to be the inaugural Air Force Representative Elder," he said.
"I am also involved with committees which give recognition to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and servicewomen who served their country proudly in all the conflicts in which Australia has been involved. I serve on a number of committees and boards at different levels when invited.
"My role as Indigenous Elder of the Air Force takes up a considerable amount of my time but during my service I felt I had gained a lot personally and achieved a tremendous amount of self-confidence giving me the opportunity to speak with many other Indigenous people who were interested in seeking a career in the services, particularly the Air Force.
"So, giving that time allows me to be tremendously proud of the opportunities and experiences that I can pass on to, not only Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but to all people who may not have had the chance to achieve their full potential.
"My community is proud of my achievements as someone who has come from the country and is a respected Elder across our land.
"It is indeed an honour to be a part of Air Force’s 100 year commemoration joining the many others who have served and to thank them for that service."
Uncle Harry and wife Beverly (a former WRAAF member) live in Sydney and have two sons and three grandchildren.
Uncle Harry's work ethic is undiminished and he continues to serve us all in this critical role, helping us understand that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are an important and valued part of the Australian Defence Force.
Planning is underway for the centenary of the Royal Australian Air Force on March 31, 2021. For further information, visit: www.airforce.gov.au/100.