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RAAF names new Indigenous Elder as Uncle Harry steps down

written by Staff reporter | March 1, 2022

A new Indigenous Elder has been appointed to replace Uncle Harry Allie, BEM after almost a decade of service.

Uncle Harry handed over his official duties as the Royal Australian Air Force’s Indigenous Elder to Aunty Deborah Booker during a ceremony at RAAF Base Glenbrook on Friday, 25 February.

In her new role, Booker will be tasked with advising the Chief of Air Force on Indigenous cultural matters and engaging and mentoring aviators, while also providing a key cultural link between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and Air Force.

The new appointee welcomed the opportunity to serve as an Indigenous advocate.

“I feel honoured and privileged that the Chief of Air Force would place his trust in me with this appointment,” she said.

“As the first dedicated service Elder ever appointed, Uncle Harry has played a crucial role in progressing cultural changes within Air Force and I am excited to build on his wonderful work and be a role model and advocate for all of our aviators.”

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Booker has served in the Air Force for more than 13 years, during which she has supported Indigenous recruitment and community engagement activities, including Exercise Kummundoo, which promotes dental health services to remote Indigenous communities.

She has also helped shape the Indigenous Pre-Recruitment Course to prepare Indigenous young Australians for Australian Defence Force service.

The incoming Indigenous Elder for the RAAF has also supported numerous health, youth and community initiatives, and has helped inform national government policies on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment, education and community engagement.

Booker most recently served as a senior project officer with Ninti One, the National Best Practice Unit for Tackling Indigenous Smoking.

“I think we can all make a difference individually, but together we can move mountains,” she added.

Last month, Uncle Harry, of Gudjala Tribe, was there to present Sydney Flight College’s first annual Indigenous Scholarship, which gets awarded to one selected Indigenous student enrolled in its CPL Diploma Course, per year.

The scholarship covers the gap between the selected student’s HECS/HELP loan from the government and the total cost of completing the course, meaning the selected student does not need to pay out of pocket to study.

Uncle Harry presented this year’s aware to Thomas Blackman, a Butchulla man from K’gari (Frasier Island).

Speaking at the event on Friday, Blackman said, “Today marks the history of the first Indigenous Scholarship for Sydney Flight College. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to have been selected to receive this scholarship.

“I aspire to pave the way for future indigenous applicants who come through SFC, and I am proud to be a part of a school that is taking this step.”

Article courtesy of Defence Connect, additional reporting by Hannah Dowling.

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