Navy’s first Indigenous Cultural Performer leads the way

When Able Seaman Lynton Robbins joined the Royal Australian Navy, he never imagined he would one day be part of shaping its cultural identity as its inaugural Indigenous Cultural Performer (ICP).

CAPTION: Navy’s Inaugural Indigenous Cultural Performer, Able Seaman Aviation Support Lynton Robbins plays the yidaki/didgeridoo at Garden Island Defence Precinct, Sydney. Story by Leading Seaman Jonathan Rendell. Photo by Able Seaman Susan Mossop.

Born in Dubbo, NSW, in 1999, AB Robbins is a Gamilaraay man. He and his family (mum, dad, three brothers and four sisters) lived in Brewarrina for a time, before moving to Orange.

He enlisted in the Navy in 2018 and graduated the Navy Indigenous Development Program which, he said, played a major part in his Defence journey.

   

“I had no idea I’d be returning to perform for a Navy Indigenous Development Program graduation parade as the first Indigenous Cultural Performer,” AB Robbins said.

In 2020, AB Robbins graduated as an Aviation Support sailor (flight deck marshall) and quickly posted to Navy’s flagship HMAS Canberra, where he served on regional presence deployments, as well as Indo Pacific Endeavour and Exercise Talisman Sabre 2021.

This year, he deployed on Operation Tonga Assist, where he operated with aircraft, airlifting essential stores and equipment to outlying Tongan islands.

But shortly before this operational deployment, an opportunity arose that he could not pass up.

“The maritime personnel specialist on board called me to her office and told me all about these new Indigenous Cultural Performer positions,” AB Robbins said.

“I wanted to do something I love. I feel really strongly about closing the gap and I saw this as a great opportunity to do that.”

The two ICP positions have only recently been stood up by the RAN.

They provide an opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sailors of any specialisation to hold 12-month representational positions in the Navy Band, performing at home and overseas.

AB Robbins embedded with RAN Band Sydney in April as the inaugural Navy ICP.

Since then, he has broken ground repeatedly, marching with his yidaki/didgeridoo with the band, and performing at major events, including the recent Indo Pacific Sea Power Conference 2022 in Sydney, establishment commissionings, ceremonies, graduations and a freedom-of-entry parade.

“Being the first Indigenous Cultural Performer is a great honour for me, because it is a great way for Navy to move forward with closing the gap in its own way,” he said.

“I think we’re learning from each other in a way that has been uncommon and we’re heading in the right direction.

“One thing I can say to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is take the leap of faith, be brave, step out of your comfort zone and join Defence. It’s a great workplace to be part of.”

Increasing interest means the second ICP position is expected to be filled later this year.


 
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