Twenty-one Indigenous recruits enlisted into the RAN on February 13, as part of the Navy Indigenous Development Program.

The five-month program is a residential course designed to assist Indigenous Australians in reaching the required standard to permanently enlist into the Australian Defence Force, by developing their leadership skills, physical fitness, military knowledge, personal values and behaviours and improving their literacy and numeracy levels.

Under the program, the 12 women and nine men, ranging in age from 18 to 30, joined Navy on a six-month contract as ‘non-specific category entries’.

As part of the program the new recruits travelled to the Royal Australian Navy Recruit School at HMAS Cerberus at Crib Point, Victoria, where they spent three weeks learning how to wear their uniforms correctly, how to march, how to adapt to living in a communal environment and basic military skills.

While in Melbourne, the recruits have visited the Melbourne Museum and taken part in the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Tour.

Recruit George Dorante, of Cairns, said he was enjoying the experience.

“I’m really enjoying the military training so far, but not so much the Melbourne weather,” he said.

Recruit Dorante said he was surprised to learn at the museum that Australia’s first cricket team to visit England in 1868 was all Indigenous.

The recruits will travel to Canberra and visit the Australian War Memorial, where they will learn about Australia's military history and more specifically the contributions of Indigenous servicemen and women.

They will also participate in the Last Post Ceremony, tour Parliament House and visit the Australian National Museum, where they will have the opportunity to look at an extensive display of Indigenous paintings and artefacts.

They will then head to Sydney for base familiarisation tours of HMAS Waterhen, including a tour of the Huon-class minehunter HMAS Huon II and HMAS Penguin, where they will tour the Australian Defence Force Diving School, the Maritime Geospatial Training Centre and Royal Australian Navy Medical School.

They will also visit the Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour to discover more about Australia’s Maritime history and the Naval Heritage Centre at Garden Island Dockyard, where there is an extensive collection of Naval memorabilia. Their trip to Sydney will include cultural tours and team-building activities.

The recruits will return to Cairns, where they will focus on their literacy and numeracy, military skills, physical fitness, vocational education and training, cultural appreciation and leadership and character development.

At the end of the program the participants will have the option of continuing with a career in the ADF, or returning to civilian life and their communities, equipped with new workplace skills, which will improve their chances of obtaining gainful employment in their chosen careers.