About 22 hours’ drive from her family in Darwin, Private Maria Aniceto has made herself right at home in another Northern Territory town.
CAPTION: Private Maria Aniceto re-stocks catering supplies in the deployable catering capability at Camp Birt during the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Program in Gapuwiyak, Northern Territory. Story by Captain Annie Richardson. Photo by Warrant Officer Class Two Kim Allen.
Deployed to Gapuwiyak as part of the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Program (AACAP) 2022, the Top End local is embracing the culture in the settlement.
“Being from metropolitan Darwin, I didn’t really know the Gapuwiyak community or how to engage with the locals,” Private Aniceto said.
“The first thing I wanted to do was to learn about the traditional culture, and it’s been incredible getting out in nature and getting involved with the locals.”
On her first day, Private Aniceto found herself as a stand-in singer performing with the band of the 1st Brigade during the AACAP opening ceremony in June.
Having only ever performed at a school talent quest, the warehouse operator from the 10th Force Support Battalion also performed traditional dances with community locals.
“During the AACAP opening ceremony we were encouraged to join the locals in performing some traditional dances,” Private Aniceto said.
“And a few weeks after the opening ceremony, the women in the community took us out again to teach us some different animal dances.”
Not limiting her involvement to singing and dancing, Private Aniceto also immersed herself in the culture in Gapuwiyak through women’s business, including basket weaving.
“We went out with the women and gathered the leaves of pandanus trees,” Private Aniceto said.
“They told us how they would use the leaves to weave baskets and mats. The whole time we were talking and getting to know everyone.
“I’ve been able to work really closely with different Army teams, but the community building and engagement aspect has been the biggest highlight of the whole trip.”
Private Aniceto was already on task in Rockhampton when she got the call to join the AACAP contingent, and had the opportunity to drive up to East Arnhem Land through north Queensland and the flat expanse of the Northern Territory.
“This is my first AACAP, and not many members of my unit have gone before, so I really didn’t go in with any expectations or ideas of what it may entail,” she said.
“I’m so glad I got the opportunity, and I’m looking forward to whatever else comes our way.
“Before I leave, I‘m really hoping to hear some of the Gapuwiyak dreamtime stories, which can only be told by the land owners.”
As for advising anyone considering participating in AACAP, Private Aniceto recommended obtaining a white card to go onto the construction areas, and obtaining as many driver qualifications as possible.
“AACAP makes you really appreciate everything you have, and puts a lot into perspective. The people and community and culture are eye-opening,” Private Aniceto said.
“I’ll be looking for a posting in the future with a unit which supports AACAP so I can go again.
“If anyone ever has the opportunity to go on AACAP, do it, one hundred per cent.”