ABORIGINAL and Torres Strait Islander veterans will lead the Anzac Day march in Canberra for the first time this year.
The march will highlight the service given by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in uniform and in an auxiliary capacity.
Among the lead marchers will be WOFF Michael Enchong, of PERS- AF, who has served in the Air Force for 31 years and has deployed to the Solomon Islands and the Middle East region.
“I’ve had the honour of commemorating Anzac Day on both deployments,” he said.
“It was a great time to reflect on our previous and current soldiers, sailors and airmen, as well as the next generation, and their service to country.
When he joined in 1986 it was hard t o find another Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person in Air Force.
WOFF Enchong said today it was a refreshing change to see many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people serving in the Air Force uniform.
“It’s an absolute honour to have the option to march in the lead column of the Anzac Day parade in Canberra,” he said.
“Our people have been defending the country for thousands of years, Being recognised on the national stage is outstanding.”
National President of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans and Service Association, SQNLDR Gary Oakley of PERS-AF, said the request to lead the march was made to the RSL by the association.
“This is an opportunity to highlight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service,” he said.
“It will be important for us to have as many indigenous veterans as possible marching on Anzac Day, especially those still serving.
“Relatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have died have also been given rare permission by the RSL to march with the lead column wearing their family’s medals.”
Deputy Director Diversity and Inclusion – Air Force, WGCDR Cheryl Neal, a descendent of the Darug people and an indigenous veteran with 30 years of service, said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a long history of service.
“They have always protected country, often denying their heritage in order to do so in uniform,” she said.
“The opportunity for our people to lead the Anzac Day march in Canberra allows for greater recognition of service to the nation, for all people.”
Specialist Advisor to CAF – Indigenous Affairs GPCAPT Lisa Jackson Pulver said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service women and men hold a proud legacy of serving their nation, country, communities and families.
“Australia has a debt of gratitude to our first people Anzacs – they were never thanked or acknowledged for their service during their lifetimes,” she said.
“At last, the story is being told, held close to our hearts and shared with us all.”
Written by CPL Mark Doran