After five months of hard work and determination, the members of class 17 of the Navy Indigenous Development Program (NIDP) graduated on June 23.

In a public graduation ceremony at Munro Martin Parklands in Cairns, Queensland, the graduates proudly paraded in front of friends, family and the local community.

Newly appointed Officer in Charge NIDP, Lieutenant Commander Christopher Thornton, said being part of something so important was a rewarding experience.

“This program has been around for eight years," Lieutenant Commander Thornton said.

“You see the recruits on day one entering as individuals and watch them graduate as a team.

“It’s then that you appreciate the significance this program has on their lives and the lives of past recruits.

“It’s not only important to the graduates, but to their families who can see the development and change they have gone through during the five months.

“They graduate from the program as an inspiration to other community members – they have qualifications, pride and the confidence needed for employment.

“It’s great to be a part of.” 

The graduates leave the NIDP with the equivalent of Year 10 maths and English gained through a contextualised TAFE course.

The course enables them to either meet the requirements to enlist in Defence or confidently pursue other careers.

Navy Indigenous Development Program graduates perform a traditional dance during their graduation ceremony. Photo: Able Seaman Susan Mossop

Program participant Zidanie Mudu, 19, moved from Saibai Island to Cape York four years ago and said she heard about the NIDP from a friend at home who graduated from recruit school.

She decided it was the life she wanted, too. 

“I want to be an inspiration like my friend Kalishwa, I am happy to be making my mother and my community proud of what I am doing,” Ms Mudu said. 

“Everyone at home is interested in my journey and what I am doing.

“It wasn’t easy adapting to the 5am starts, so much ironing and physical training, but it’s been good to get out of my comfort zone.

“I am ready now and want to continue into Navy as a ‘storbie’ [maritime logistics - supply chain].

“I got to visit recruit school during the program so I saw what it was like, and I can’t wait.”

The NIDP not only takes the participants on a journey of self-development, but a physical journey to parts of Australia many have not visited before.

Billy Horner said the visit to RAAF Base Townsville opened his eyes to the opportunities available in Defence.

“I was doing a pretty regular job in Adelaide, The NIDP was a chance to challenge myself and develop,” Mr Horner said. 

“The program made me realise I can travel and achieve much more, but it was [RAAF Base] Townsville that did it for me, talking to the Air Force dog handlers.

“I realised I want to pursue an Air Force career. The NIDP has enabled that. 

“I have a goal now and the NIDP instructors have been supportive, getting me prepared and speaking to the right people for my future.

“One of the most challenging things, but most rewarding, has been the change to my thinking – it’s not just about me anymore; it’s about always looking out for my team mates. 

“I have made some great friends on the program and watching out for others around you just becomes second nature after a while.”

The NIDP currently runs two courses each year. 

For more information about a career in Defence, visit www.defencejobs.gov.au.