Navy enlists first Indigenous Elders

Two former sailors of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent were welcomed back on board with appointments as Navy’s first Indigenous Elders.

CAPTION: Former sailors Uncle Phillip Bowie and Aunty Fran Visini have rejoined the Navy in new mentoring roles. Story by Corporal Melina Young. Photo by Lieutenant Commander Christoper Thornton.

Pioneering the role supporting the Navy Indigenous Development Program (NIDP), Aunty Fran Visini and Uncle Phillip Bowie have re-enlisted in the recently established general mariner reservist category.

Officer in charge NIDP, Lieutenant Commander Christopher Thornton, said the elders will provide cultural support and advice to recruits, while also guiding staff.

“My staff and I feel extremely fortunate to have Aunty Fran and Uncle Phillip want to be part of our program, they have already helped put our recruits’ minds at ease knowing they will be provided with elder cultural support during their training,” Lieutenant Commander Thornton said.

“The fact they were sailors beforehand is just a bonus as they can speak from personal experience to our recruits who are considering going on into the Navy from our program.”

Aunty Fran worked for two years at HMAS Harman and Albatross as a steward.

A love of the uniform inspired her to join at 17 in 1970 – wanting to be like a neighbour she watched arriving home in her smart Navy attire.

She now sees her role as providing support and culturally mentoring recruits.

“I’m passionate about improving the lives of young people and I look forward to inspiring, leading and supporting our next generation of Indigenous Australians and service personnel,” Aunty Fran said.

She hopes to help recruits develop confidence and inspire them to do great things with their lives.

“I just want a chance to influence the young recruits and convey the message that they should follow their dreams and have the courage to try,” Aunty Fran said.

Uncle Phillip joined in 1956 and trained at HMAS Leeuwin as a marine technician and before serving for nearly nine years in the ships Melbourne, Stalwart, Paluma and Barbette.

“I am excited about sharing my experiences, and I can spin a good yarn about my time that may help the young recruits,” Uncle Phillip said.

“I would like them to think of me as someone they can talk to if they find themselves in a difficult position or just need advice.”

Uncle Phillip hopes recruits graduate with more understanding and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.

Graduates finish with the equivalent of Year 10 maths and English through TAFE and that enables them to meet the requirements to enlist.





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One thought on “Navy enlists first Indigenous Elders

  • 15/08/2022 at 8:34 am

    Loved the article on the NIDP, it was great to see the program being brought to the public’s attention. Of course I have a special pride in the NIDP as my son is 2IC of it ??????❤️??


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