Renaming RAAF’s air battle management system

No. 41 Wing and the Worimi community came together to celebrate the Aboriginal renaming of the Royal Australian Air Force’s air battle management system (ABMS) on Friday, 18 February at RAAF Base Williamtown in NSW.

CAPTION: A Murrook Cultural Heritage Team member conduct a smoking ceremony at No. 41 Wing’s naming ceremony at RAAF Base Williamtown, New South Wales. Story by Flight Lieutenant Grace Casey-Maughan and Flight Lieutenant Claire Burnet. Photo by Leading Aircraftman Samuel Miller.

The Worimi word, Wakulda, was chosen for the ABMS from the Gathang language, as it means ‘together’ and translates literally to ‘at one’.

Although the new name has been in use since 2019, COVID-19 prevented the ceremony from taking place until now, when Worimi Elders, community members, industry partners, and No. 41 Wing personnel were finally able to come together.

A Welcome to Country was performed by Worimi Elder Uncle John Ridgeway, and a smoking ceremony was conducted by representatives of the Murook Cultural Centre.

Previous Officer Commanding No. 41 Wing and now Commander Surveillance and Response Group, Air Commodore Nathan Christie, said the name Wakulda was a better reflection of the nature of the ABMS.

“Everything within it requires teamwork: uniformed personnel, public service members, Capability and Sustainment Group, and industry partners must all be Wakulda,” Air Commodore Christie said.

“I am extremely proud to have played a part in this Aboriginal name change.”

CAPTION: Deputy Director of Indigenous Affairs Wing Commander Johnathan Lilley and Wakulda artist Melissa Lilley at No. 41 Wing’s naming ceremony at RAAF Base Williamtown. Photo by Leading Aircraftman Samuel Miller.

Officer Commanding No. 41 Wing Group Captain Brett Risstrom said the new name and smoking ceremony recognised the importance of reconciliation and the role that Air Force, Defence and industry partners might contribute.

“Use of the word Wakulda is a way of weaving No. 41 Wing’s relationship with the Worimi community into the history of the wing,” Group Captain Risstrom said.

“It demonstrates our enduring union of tradition and friendship.”

Wing Commander Jonathan Lilley, a Worimi man and Deputy Director Indigenous Affairs Air Force, and RAAF Base Williamtown Indigenous Liaison Officer Flight Lieutenant Matthew Roberts, worked with the Gathang language group to identify the most suitable word for the ABMS renaming.

“Today is a reflection of what reconciliation means in an Australian context,” Wing Commander Lilley said.

“Wakulda literally means ‘at one’ and today we have two cultures coming together and setting a precedent that others can follow: to come together, listen to each other and respectfully create projects immersed in Aboriginal culture.”

Central to and symbolic of this, is the Wakulda artwork created especially by artist Melissa Lilley to symbolise the inception of No. 41 Wing, which was first raised as a military unit in Papua New Guinea during WWII and spread over time across the country to operate in various locations on the land, in the air, and above the atmosphere.






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