HMAS Albatross’ recent commission with local Indigenous artist, Aunty Kerrie Williams, celebrates a genuine community connection and respect to the land on which Albatross stands – Jerrinja and Wandi Wandian country.
CAPTION: Captain Robyn Phillips, left, Petty Officer Jordon Bradshaw, Indigenous artist Kerrie Williams and Leading Seaman Callum Dawson at the Fleet Air Arm museum in Nowra. Story by Lieutenant Danielle Worthey. Photo by Leading Seaman Ryan Tascas.
The result, a twin-set canvas display of albatross and black cockatoo fauna, which tells a rich story on fixed museum display and replicated in fabric.
A truly collaborative vision shared between Commanding Officer Albatross Captain Robyn Phillips, Leading Seaman Physical Training Instructor Callum Dawson and resident Regional Indigenous Development Coordinator Petty Officer Jordon Bradshaw came to life when Aunty Kerrie connected community and base on canvas.
“The meaning behind the art was to represent the local people through the blue background – the saltwater people,” Aunty Kerrie said.
“The albatross represents the Navy base and the black cockatoo represents Nowra, as it is a totem for the area and represents the dreamtime story of how Nowra gained its name.”
Leading Seaman Dawson had taken the idea to the next level. Albatross now displays the art on their physical training and sporting uniforms.
“The uniqueness behind Indigenous artwork is the storytelling and what better way to share our communities then to have it represent our Command and people outside of the Shoalhaven region,” Leading Seaman Dawson said.
In front of the original pieces, crew members from Albatross gifted Aunty Kerrie shirts, which had been printed with the commissioned art for her to wear and remain connected with the collaboration.
“I will never forget this moment. I am absolutely proud,” Aunty Kerrie said.
In company was highly respected elder of the Shoalhaven communities, Aunty Pat, who expanded on the dreamtime story and how Nowra in the local language means black cockatoo.
“Cambewarra Mountain used to be a volcanic mountain, known as the mountain of fire. There were only white cockatoos in the area back then,” Aunty Pat said.
“One time, the mountain began to rumble and instead of being silenced, like many other birds, the cockatoos became curious. They went towards the mountain as smoke bellowed out and began to erupt. Some remained at a distance, whilst others flew through the smoke.
“When they came out the other side, they were charred black with their cone and tail red, burnt by the volcanic fire. Their squawking ‘naw-ra, naw-ra’ is how Nowra was named.”
Petty Officer Bradshaw, a lead in the Navy Indigenous Performance Group, Bungaree, also shared how the black cockatoo forms a significant dance in their performances.
“A request will be placed for Albatross’ 75th birthday next year,” Captain Phillips said.
Although discussions for commissioned art were had well before NAIDOC Week, the revealing of the canvases and uniforms with Command, artist, elder and staff present demonstrated a genuine collaboration between communities and commitment of ‘Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!’.
Having the bespoke design on Albatross sporting uniform, as well as the originals on display at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, was a way to celebrate, respect and share the story of the local communities reaching audiences well beyond the Jerrinja and Wandi Wandian country (Shoalhaven).