Soldiers and visitors to the Puckapunyal Military Area will benefit from a yarning circle, which was opened by Indigenous Elder Aunty Joanne from the local Taungurung Land and Waters Council during last year’s NAIDOC Week activities. 

A yarning circle is a culturally appropriate place to meet and hold ceremonies, and also is the practice of speaking and listening from the heart.

Aunty Joanne, who has been instrumental in providing support, guidance and advocacy to Army’s Indigenous soldiers, trainees and APS staff at Puckapunyal, said the yarning circle was invaluable for mentoring the cultural wellbeing of Army’s soldiers.

“I am pleased to have been able to work together with the cooperation and respect between the Puckapunyal Army people and the local Aboriginal networks over the past year,” she said.

“This has been reflected by the thoughtful siting and construction of this yarning circle.” 

Senior ADF Officer Puckapunyal, Colonel David McCammon, said the initiative enabled further cooperation between Army and local Indigenous groups.

“It is important that we continue to nurture our soldiers and officers while they are posted to or attending courses at Puckapunyal,” Colonel McCammon said. 

Private Brodie Lawton, of the Army School of Transport, participates in a smoking ceremony at Puckapunyal.

Prior to a site being established at Puckapynyal, the Army School of Transport held a yarning circle, led by Elders Aunty Joanne and Uncle Shane.

Trainees and Elders exchanged stories, and guidance was offered and exchanged on various cultural aspects.

This was followed by a smoking ceremony to help the trainees move on to the next part of their careers. 

At this time, the trainees presented two Indigenous-themed paintings to the school, which acknowledged the trainees’ backgrounds and future service within Army and the Royal Australian Corps of Transport.

Commanding Officer of the Army School of Transport, Lieutenant Colonel Clarke Brown, said the paintings were a great initiative and would help future Indigenous trainees knowing that others had travelled their journey.

“The importance of knowing others who have been here before was highlighted when a trainee told me that she felt more a part of the Indigenous community and more connected to her Indigenous heritage since joining Army,”  Lieutenant Colonel Brown said. 

“It is very important to understand and appreciate the cultural sense of community Indigenous members bring with them.”

Uncle Shane said it was a great opportunity for the Taungurung people to be involved with other mobs from all over Australia and it was an honour to be part of the trainees’ journeys.

Local formation Indigenous liaison officer Major Peta Langbehn said the establishment of a yarning circle highlighted the local support measures available and the positive connection with local Indigenous Elders.

“Uncle Shane and Aunty Joanne have excelled in the support they have been able to provide,” Major Langbehn said.

“Yarning circles provide a way and place for people to meet, conduct ceremonies, connect with each other, and provide a support network.

“We look forward to continuing to work with our local Elders, such as Aunty Joanne and Uncle Shane, to be able to offer support to our Indigenous soldiers and APS in a culturally appropriate way.”