Gary Oakley - Cultural diversity issues in the ADF

Running time
2 min 48 sec
Date made
Place made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


I remember when I came to Canberra, we never had a Fed guard. So, Ross Smith, Warrant Officer Ross Smith, he was ceremonials Vietnam vet, a really efficient soldier. Smith, I used to call him Ross Smith and Ross would come around and he'd stick his head in, he goes, "You, Gary. Two o'clock this afternoon, such and such, be there".

And then you go around, and you turn up and there'd be 20 of you and you'd be the Fed guard, you'd be the guard and it was Army, Navy and Air Force, you all have different drill and you all had to do your own different drill, it was really strange. But we used to do all that stuff. Now, the Fed guard is the Fed guard, it’s a unit in its own right.

My time, I would be the odd one out, the indigenous guy. You look at the Fed guard today, the face of the Fed guard, there are there are people with turbans, there are Sikhs and Muslims and bloody you know what, all different kinds of people in the Fed Guard.

Defence has totally changed, the people in Defence Force, totally different to what it was when I joined because it was very Anglo in my day, very rarely did you see any Asian and Indigenous members, and that is causing problems and I brought this up with Indigenous Affairs and I've said, "Oh yeah, we're all about looking after Indigenous Australians but we got Sikhs and Muslims who've got cultural differences too, "You haven't even looked at how you're bringing those … "

Yes, we're First Nation people and this is traditionally our country, but your defence force now is so culturally diversified, you know, I can see that there's the, you know, they still haven't looked at how they're going to assault that. [Q: A natural question that those peoples might say is, Why don't we get our own?] Well, they're already doing that, going, "Well you've got a Department of Indigenous Affairs, who do I go to if I've got a problem? " And that's a problem, "Who do you go to? " I did some work for the defence chaplains and the defence chaplaincy handbook has nothing in it, it has stuff about Muslims and Sikhs and stuff, and I went, "There's nothing here about Indigenous Australians, First Nation Australians ".

So, I ended up writing the thing on spirituality for Indigenous Australians for the defence chaplaincy handbook. So, you know, somebody's looking at some things and missing others. Some people are looking at other things and missing others. So, we're 100 times better off than we originally were.

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