Warrant Officer Stephen Weaver is bringing NAIDOC to the Middle East
NAIDOC Week has been celebrated in the Middle East Region (MER) this year thanks to Warrant Officer Stephen Weaver, a Wiradjuri man from Gundagai in NSW.
Stephen is the first Australian Air Force Indigenous Liaison Officer to be stationed in the Middle East.
‘I am extremely humbled and proud,’ Stephen said.
‘Indigenous women and men have served in the Middle East Region since World War One. We have a proud history of service here and all around the world. To be the first Indigenous Liaison Officer (ILO), is an important role that I consider to be the highlight of my career to date.’
ILOs play an integral role in strengthening Air Force’s relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and immersing Aboriginal culture into its customs and culture.
Stephen is the force behind the NAIDOC celebrations on his base, Camp Baird.
‘My planned activities include a NAIDOC themed art competition for the entire camp,’ Stephen said.
‘Also, we will be displaying Aboriginal artefacts in the mess on a central table. They will be accompanied by a fact sheet describing where the artefact comes from, what it was used for and how old versions of it have been dated to.’
There will also be an Indigenous themed dinner.
‘The mess hall will be decorated in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colours and I have arranged for flags to be sent over to display in the mess for the night. Placemats throughout the mess will educate members about Indigenous history and culture,’ Stephen said.
On the night, there will be interviews with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander officers about what NAIDOC Week means to them.
In addition, there will be flag raising ceremonies across the MER including in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Stephen was behind recent Reconciliation Week events on the base which were well received.
‘Australian Defence Force (ADF) members were very receptive to all of the activities and there was a huge line up to participate in the dot painting, demonstrating a personal commitment towards reconciliation.’
Stephen expects a similar response to NAIDOC activities with many Camp Baird personnel in attendance.
Stephen has seen great improvements for Indigenous servicemen and servicewomen over his 30 years in the Air Force.
‘Each service has their own Indigenous strategy that is linked to the Defence Reconciliation Action Plan. But strategy is one thing. I think the real catalyst for change has been our senior leaders who have led from the front by putting this strategy into action.’
‘The more we get to tell our stories of the longest surviving culture on earth and the more non-Indigenous people learn about our culture, this change will continue to the point where we experience true reconciliation.’