Royal Australian Air Force Indigenous Liaison Officer Flight Lieutenant Tramaine Dukes tells the story of her role in the ADF’s response to the devastating floods in Western Australia, and the heart-warming response from the community.
CAPTION: Air Force Indigenous Liaison Officer Flight Lieutenant Tramaine Dukes has been working with Indigenous communities in the Kimberley Region. Story by Flight Lieutenant Tremaine Dukes. Photo by Leading Aircraftwoman Kate Czerny.
I’ll never forget the smiles on the faces of the passengers I shared a flight to Halls Creek with, nor the circumstances that brought us together.
The Aboriginal people on the 35 Squadron C-27J Spartan who were displaced by the floods in the Kimberley region were finally returning home.
The people on the flight have been in their communities for generations; many have never left their homes until now. After a month sheltering away, being with them, reassuring them and making this journey is my job. I am an Air Force Indigenous Liaison Officer.
I’m a proud Mara woman from the Northern Territory, however I was born in Tom Price in the Pilbara and grew up in Perth. I’ve spent most of my life travelling up and down the West Australian coast and lived in Broome for five years.
My key role is to link Aboriginal communities with Defence members, to build relationships and break down barriers, making sure we can all work together. Vital in times of crisis.
Being one of the first Indigenous Liaison Officers to join a relief effort to a natural disaster on this scale has been challenging.
The Indigenous communities most in need were often scared, vulnerable and wary of uniforms heading into towns. They’re also complex communities where understanding and respecting local traditions can be just as important as the physical support on offer.
For example, in Fitzroy Crossing, the epicentre of the flooding disaster, there are distinct Indigenous people and groups speaking five different languages.
Defence and community working together in Fitzroy Crossing has been a huge success. It led to the evacuation of those at risk, resupplying the community left behind and working on a clean-up campaign to get the town and its people back on their feet.
I was unsure what to expect joining Operation Flood Assist 23-1, but most rewarding for me has been meeting the amazing people of Fitzroy Crossing – especially Elders Mary and Marmingee. Building those relationships by sitting under the tree on the oval and yarning, listening to their stories and being amazed at their resilience and high spirits will stay with me.
When the floods have gone and the people and town are back on their feet, we can reflect on their heart-warming welcome to Defence.
After a month dealing with disaster, we have all made friends: we are all family.
CAPTION: Air Force Indigenous Liaison Officer Flight Lieutenant Tramaine Dukes. Photo by Leading Aircraftwoman Kate Czerny.