Gary Oakley - Indigenous affairs

Running time
2 min 35 sec
Date made
Place made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


All three services have their own Indigenous Affairs units. I sit on a thing called ICAG which is the Indigenous Cultural Advisory Group for defence. So that's uniform and non-uniform. Air Force has a thing called SILC, which we're going to change the name soon, which is Senior Indigenous Leadership Circle, which is made up of senior, when you say senior, that's not by rank, it's by culture, group of people who are an advisory group to Chief of Air Force, Deputy Chief of Air Force, management, on how we use culture in Air Force.

So, we've changed a lot and I was working, I was still in the Navy Reserve but I was working at the War Memorial as a curator at the War Memorial, and I was the War Memorial’s first indigenous liaison officer and as such, I'd done some work with the new Defence Indigenous Affairs when that was set up, so I did some reserve work for them and Air Force was setting up their indigenous affairs unit and a guy that was a non-Indigenous guy that was working there, he said, "I'm going back into Air Force to help set it up ".

And he worked for Indigenous Affairs, Defence and he went, "Hey, would you like to come across and work for us? " And I went, "Oh, I don't know ". And then I saw what they were doing and the Air Force was doing it really well. They're looking at culture differently. They're not siloed and stovepipe like the army does.

You would think the army would have the best Indigenous Affairs in all three services because they’re the service that has had the longest group of indigenous people in it, but they're not. Air Force has got like a flat, a lot more flatter set up, so I went, "Yeah, I'll jump ship " and he said, "Alright, well, we're going to bring you across from the Navy " because I paid off as a petty officer and they said, "We'll bring you across and bring you in as a squadron leader ".

I went, "Oh, well, a flight lieutenant first and then they bumped me up to a Squadron Leader, and I actually believe that Air Force was doing such a good job, I quit a full-time job to work as a reservist in Indigenous Affairs but that's how air force, which is defence, but how Air Force took it seriously.

You know, and today, it's very serious today. But today, we’ve also got to look, at you know, we got Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people, First Nation people, our defence force is totally different to what it was when I joined.

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