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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Fawcett-Smith

Australian Army Cadets Supports Indigenous Youth

Increasing Indigenous Participation in the Australian Army Cadets (AAC) Program Forms Part of AAC's Priorities for 2018. Feature Magazine spoke to two local Indigenous AAC Members.

Officer of Cadets, Captain (AAC) Darryl Petfield, is a Quandamooka Man descending from the Nunukul clan of Minjerribah (now known as North Stradbroke Island).

Following in the footsteps of his son, CAPT (AAC) Petfield joined AAC fourteen years ago, and now holds the position of second-in-command (2IC) for 10 Battalion. Prior to taking on the 2IC role earlier this year, CAPT (AAC) Petfield was Training Coordinator of the Battalion, overseeing the delivery of activities including archery, watermanship, navigation and survival.

“The activities allow me to be a big kid, however in regards to my own personal growth, it is great being able to pass all my knowledge and skills on to the younger generation,” said CAPT (AAC) Petfield. “And it’s not just knowledge of the Australian Defence Force. It is important life skills like self-discipline, leadership and goal setting.”

Working nine to five as Indigenous Services Coordinator at Sarina Russo Job Access, CAPT (AAC) Petfield knows firsthand just how favourably employers view job applicants with AAC backgrounds.

“I can tell you 100 per cent that having AAC experience helps job seekers. It was one of the reasons my son, who got to the rank of Cadet Sergeant, got his job as an electrician. The company snapped him up because they could see that he could follow orders, and that he had set himself goals to move up through the cadet ranks.”

CAPT (AAC) Petfield promotes the benefits of AAC at Moreton Bay Regional Council’s Murri Network Meetings attended by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous government, service providers and community representatives.

“By going to the Elders and the community, we can let them know about AAC and how it can support indigenous youth. The friendships and comradeship they gain by participating in ACC activities on weeknights and on the weekend are a big support.”

Cadet Sergeant Josh Anderson is a descendent of the Wulli Wulli People and the Gangulu People from the Dawson Region of Central Queensland.

Joining Military Cadets at age 11, CDTSGT Anderson transferred to the Australian Army Cadets (AAC) 103 ACU Burpengary unit in April 2017.

“I’ve always dreamed about going into the army because of the amount of people you meet, the amount of friends that you make, and the life experiences,” explains CDTSGT Anderson. “Also, my uncle was in the Vietnam War, and despite copping a lot when he came back, he’s always had a positive attitude about the [Australian] Defence Force.”

Pride in self, and the broad range of skills he has developed with each promotion within the AAC rank system is what CDTSGT Anderson finds most rewarding.

“You get to learn something different with each rank. As Lance Corporal, I was more the carer running around making sure everyone was okay. As Cadet Corporal I got to share details, and as Cadet Sergeant I get to really be a leader.”

Major (AAC) Trevor Ruthenberg said, “Josh is an outstanding example of what can be when a young person works hard toward a goal. He has a calming way about him, and commands respect from the other cadets because they know he won't ask them to do something he wouldn't do himself. He has earned their respect.”

Like many ex-cadets before him, CDTSGT Anderson hopes to secure a trade career in the Australia Army after finishing school.

“103 ACU is a big family,” said MAJ (AAC) Ruthenberg. “We have cadets with all sorts of heritage, and Josh's indigenous roots provide our family with the rich aspects of his heritage. But most important, along with his parents, we are so proud of the young man he is turning into.”


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