A military unit covering the world’s largest land area – 1.8 million square kilometres of remote Northern Australia – draws most of its soldiers from First Nations communities. This Aboriginal contingent makes up more than 50 per cent of the part-time personnel at North-West Mobile Force (NORFORCE), an infantry unit of the Australian Army employed in the surveillance and reconnaissance of Northern Australia.

It includes new First Nations recruit, Buddy Worrigal, who doubles as an Agriculture and Rural Operations Lecturer at Charles Darwin University (CDU) in Katherine. Worrigal said it fulfilled a lifelong dream when he completed the initial employment training, and officially became a Regional Force Soldier on November 25. This followed his enlistment in October last year, and pre-assessment and recruitment training in May this year.

“That day marked the quiet achievement of a dream that took shape when I was a kid,”  Worrigal said. “Serving as part of NORFORCE enables me to look after country on country and give back to the community while working at CDU. I’ve always admired what the unit does for local Indigenous people. For instance, its Army Indigenous Development Program that assists young Indigenous adults who face challenges in terms of language, literacy and physical fitness.”

Worrigal was also attracted to the culture of camaraderie and mateship at NORFORCE, and its emphasis on the importance of Indigenous knowledge and understanding of country across the unit’s vast operating area. This spans the Northern Territory and Western Australia’s Kimberley region.

“A mix of traditional and community-based knowledge of the land informs a range of NORFORCE operations, from patrols continually updating military knowledge of northern Australia to specific remote border surveillance patrols reporting to Maritime Border Command,” he said.

Originally from the Kimberley region in north-western Australia, Worrigal has lived in the NT for about 19 years, where he has called the Katherine area home for the past eight years. There, at the Crossroads to the North, Worrigal works as part of a small team, with a focus on remote delivery of short courses in Agriculture and Rural Operationsat CDU’s Katherine campus. For instance, vocational training in welding, chemical use and NT White Card, and operating 4WD and side-by-side vehicles, chainsaws and tractors.

“Teaching and learning is a common thread that binds together my complementary roles at CDU and NORFORCE, and I hope to apply some of the new technical knowledge learned from my specialist training to the university’s short courses,” he said.

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