CAPTION: Then Flight Lieutenant Darpan Dhawan, far right, with personnel from the Indian Air Force during the Exercise Pitch Black 2022 opening ceremony in Darwin. Story by Squadron Leader Jessica Aldred. Photo by Leading Aircraftwoman Emma Schwenke.
As part of Harmony Week, this week (March 20-26), Squadron Leader Jessica Aldred spoke to two inspirational Air Force members whose lives and careers encapsulate the spirit of the celebration. One of them was Flight Lieutenant Darpan Dhawan, who explains how a multicultural upbringing shaped his career.
Growing up in New Delhi, India, before migrating to Australia at age 11, Flight Lieutenant Darpan (known as Dev) Dhawan brings a lived experience of diversity to Air Force.
Joining Air Force through ADFA in 2014 as an electrical engineer, Flight Lieutenant Dhawan has acted as both a linguist and liaison officer for multiple Australia-India engagement activities throughout his career, as well as multiple overseas activities in support of 33 Squadron and 11 Squadron.
He said his upbringing in both India and Australia has helped him to understand the importance of diverse views and the value it can bring to Air Force.
“India is a very diverse country, which was exemplified to me by how diverse my friendship group was growing up in New Delhi,” Flight Lieutenant Dhawan said.
“I was brought up a Hindu, went to Christian schools for most of my schooling life and have had Sikh and Muslim best friends at all ages.
“My belief is that everyone’s potential is shaped by their life experiences, both positive and negative, and the true challenge is for commanders and leaders to accept that everyone is slightly different and understand how to unlock each individual’s true potential.
“This was demonstrated at Exercise Pitch Black 22. As one of the country liaison officers for the Indian Air Force, I got to see how 17 nations came together with diverse thinking, skills and experience to solve challenges.”
Living in Australia’s multicultural society has continued to expand Flight Lieutenant Dhawan’s knowledge of how people with diverse backgrounds operate together.
He believes it is important for Air Force to have a diverse workforce that represents the community it serves.
“A diverse workforce provides us with the edge which some other organisations and militaries might lack and, if done successfully, each individual’s diversity could prove to be the strongest binding factor of a team,” Flight Lieutenant Dhawan said.
“I’ve had the privilege to work in very diverse teams over the years, including people with various backgrounds, musterings, ages and gender.
“The best thing about diverse teams is that everyone brings a different flavour to the party, which helps to provide many perspectives on how a problem can be solved.”
Flight Lieutenant Dhawan is currently posted to Headquarters 86WG as a staff officer engineering, at RAAF Base Amberley.