Pathway to Defence for Indigenous recruits

When applying for a job in Defence, Recruit Cephas Conway wanted to be an infantryman, because that was the image of a soldier he was familiar with.

The Murrawarri man had a desire to join the Army since his early 20s, but felt it was unattainable because he didn’t have his Year 10 certificate.

He was offered a place in the Army Indigenous Development Program (AIDP), a 17-week residential program delivering education, military training and physical conditioning to prepare candidates for the Army recruit course.

“I went with that program because I didn’t have my passes and I’d get a good idea of what the Army is actually like, because you don’t really know until you’ve been,” he said.

“I wasn’t too sure about the course before I came here, but I love it. I definitely recommend Indigenous people to jump in and give it a go.”

As part of Defence’s commitment to Closing the Gap, candidates with education shortfalls are identified during the recruitment process and offered a pathway into the Army through the program.

The course also takes participants through adventure training to build confidence and military skills to introduce them to shooting and navigation.

‘I think it’s great the Defence Force allows our young ones to go in and work together as a team to try and help them go all the way – it’s fantastic.’

Learning to navigate with a map was something Recruit Conway had looked forward to, and said the AIDP involved more than just maths and English.

“I didn’t realise how important communication and teamwork is in the Army. Before I came here I thought my communication was pretty good, but I’ve realised it was pretty poor,” he said.

For Recruit Birrahlee Ahmat Furini, serving in the Army was a calling that she felt drawn to, and said the AIDP was an excellent pathway into Defence.

“It’s challenging at times because it’s a long time spent here and its hard being away from my family,” she said.

Recruit Furini enjoyed the military aspect of the course, especially navigation, and said she was looking forward to learning more on the initial foundation training course at Kapooka.

Participants also visit the Australian War Memorial for a tour to learn about the history of Indigenous service, guided by Indigenous veterans.

Some don’t have a strong connection to their heritage, so the AIDP uses activities such as music and storytelling to grow that link, according to Kapooka Indigenous Elder Auntie Jocelyn Williams.

“Once you’ve got that identity, it makes you feel proud in yourself. Even more proud to think we used to have to lie to get into the Defence Force,” Auntie Jocelyn said.

“I think it’s great the Defence Force allows our young ones to go in and work together as a team to try and help them go all the way – it’s fantastic.”

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