It was a visit to remember for Indigenous Elder Uncle George Anderson, as he took part in the Commanding Officer (CO) of RAAF Security and Fire School’s ‘CO’s Hour’, at RAAF Base Amberley, speaking to aviators about his time serving as a conscripted soldier in the Vietnam War.
CAPTION: Aunty Rubena and Uncle Gorge Anderson visit the RAAF Security and Fire School Headquarters at RAAF Base Amberley. Story by Flight Lieutenant Greg Hinks.
Uncle George, joined by his wife Rubena – one of the first Indigenous ABC newsreaders – spoke openly about his journey into, through and after Defence, the challenges of war and being an Indigenous Australian wanting to fight for his country.
“I received a letter telling me I had to sign up for national service, so I went to Rockhampton and the people there told me I didn’t have to because I was Aboriginal,” Uncle George said.
“I got upset and told them, I’m an Australian, so put my name down and then they sent me off to Adelaide for training.”
Uncle George described his service in Vietnam with seriousness and at times humour, talking about being the only Indigenous soldier in his section and, despite the racism encountered during that time, the way soldiers all came together to protect each other.
“It was so hot when we arrived, and it was when we walked off the boat we realised we could be shot at and killed,” Uncle George said.
“I was very proud to do my bit for the country. We looked after the fella in front and the one behind looked after you. Regardless of colour, we had to look after each other.
“We had our 50-year anniversary recently and catching up with those blokes was amazing. We’re all older, skinnier or fatter; we said our g’days and it was amazing how we looked after one another.”
Commanding Officer RAAF Security and Fire School (RAAFSFS) Wing Commander Craig Nielsen said the benefit of the ‘CO’s Hour’ was to bring aviators together to connect, recognise achievements and hear from people such as Uncle George.
“We often get focused on our individual areas within the unit, however, the unit functions as a broader team, and the ‘CO’s Hour’ brings that overall team together,” Wing Commander Nielsen said.
“Hearing about George’s service history and his cultural background creates connection and understanding to our past and allows our aviators to reflect on where we have come from, which will enable their thoughts around how we can best move forward.
“Additionally, RAAFSFS has a large Indigenous trainee throughput, and it’s important we take moments in time to build broadness in culture to best understand others and how we all work together.
“Regardless of our differences, we all want to be able to serve our country, and the one thing that has not changed within Defence is mateship.”
Read more about Uncle George Anderson and his service in the books Serving our Country and Our Mob that Served.