Gary Oakley - Cultural differences

Running time
2 min 9 sec
Date made
Place made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


When I joined, we didn't have, there was no such thing as Indigenous Affairs. I mean, there used to be a joke on board, they’d say, "Oh, where’s such and such? ". "Oh, he's gone walkabout " because he’d shot through and then he turned up a week later and everybody’d go, "Why'd you do that? ", "Black fella ", you know, and you'd get fined or number nines or whatever, people didn't understand at that time there were things called sorry business, you know, and I can remember, like saying that, you know, "My Auntie's died, I gotta go to my Aunty " and they go, "But she's not a blood relative ", or she's an auntie of somebody, whatever, whatever. And I’d would go, "Yeah, but she's my auntie, I gotta go ". And defence would go, "No, she's not a blood relative, so you can't go ". So they buzz off.

Now, Defence understands what an aunty means because a lot of indigenous people, kids, were not brought up by mum and dad, they might have been brought up by granny or an auntie or who they call an aunty. So, defence has gone from "Don’t be trying to pull the wool over my eyes " to "I understand there is a cultural difference. now, you are culturally different ".

And we join the Defence Force for different reasons, you know, we join defence force because it's about serving country, yeah, I get a job, but there's also a thing in me that says, "It's my duty to serve my country, it's my duty to look after country ". It's in my DNA and I've been in the military over 50 years, you know, it's just the way you serve.

I can remember when they were bringing in the first Indigenous Affairs unit in the Navy and I volunteered to be a part of it and I had a non-Indigenous person say, "Oh, you're not black enough to be in it ", so there was still, you know, you try to set something up and you people don't understand what culture is and you don't understand the colour your skin, and this kind of stuff.

I mean, we still get that today, you know, he's really cultured, he plays the didge and he speaks a bit of language and he's got dark skin, I go, "No, no, no, you're missing the point. That ain’t culture, it's other things. So we've changed considerably on how we do business.

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