A specially organised NAIDOC Week flight for Kaurareg traditional owners allowed them to see an Elder relative’s gravesite which they hadn’t been able to access previously.
CAPTION: Australian Olympic Committee Indigenous Advisory Committee members and former Olympic athletes Kyle Vander-Kuyp (left) and Patrick Johnson during a flight over the Torres Strait Islands in an Air Force C-27J. Story by Flight Lieutenant Suellen Heath. Photo by Leading Aircraftwoman Kate Czerny.
During NAIDOC Week, Air Force has had the opportunity to highlight the commitment and significant work done to address Reconciliation and closing the gap, along with announcing a new partnership with the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC).
Whilst in Torres Strait Islands for two days of community and cultural interactions, Air Force personnel organised a scenic flight over the Torres Strait for Kaurareg traditional owners Enid Tom and Barbara Miskin, Olympians Patrick Johnson, Danny Morseu, Kyle Vander-Kuyp, AOC President Ian Chesterman and AOC CEO Matt Carroll.
Captain of the C-27J Spartan Flight Lieutenant Oliver Kersnovski asked Kaurareg traditional owner Enid Tom if there were any important landmarks he could fly over that were special to her.
“Having rich relationships are key to air force operations in remote locations around Australia and the south west Pacific,” Flight Lieutenant Kersnovski said.
“We were fortunate enough to be able to locate an extremely hard to access gravesite of the Elders relative, which they had never seen before.
“It was extremely special for the entire crew to share such a special experience with Aunty Enid and Barbara; not only were we flying over ancestral land which was special in itself, but to locate the gravesite and see how much it meant to them was amazing.”
Aunty Enid was very moved landing back on Horn Island. She said she felt extremely lucky that she was able to see her land from above and be able to tell her family that the gravesite is still in good condition.
“Best, best, best flight ever,” Aunty Enid said.
“Due to bad weather, we couldn’t attend the funeral and because the gravesite is on top of a hard to reach hill, we have never been up there to see it.
“It was the best thing we could ever hope to see on that flight, it was satisfying enough for us that we came, we saw what we wanted to see.
“We’re building a relationship with the Air Force. It is things like this that lead to reconciliation.
“It might seem small because we are a small community but it is closing the gap and it is what I work towards with my people.”