Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 6 2010 Contents 30 www.defence.gov.au/defencemagazine
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DIRECTORATE OF INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS
Leading Aircraftwoman Deborah Booker is a wonderful illustration of this year’s NAIDOC theme of
‘Unsung Heroes – Closing the Gap by Leading Their Way’.
Leading the way for
Before joining the Air Force three years ago, LACW
Booker worked in jobs as varied as a weather girl
and prison officer.
The majority of LACW Booker’s current work
centres on the Indigenous Pre-Recruitment
Course (IPRC), an eight-week program designed to
prepare Indigenous young Australians for the ADF
The IPRC program is delivered at regional locations
around Australia and increases participants’
literacy, numeracy and fitness levels, in addition to
providing them with the self-confidence, leadership
and communication skills required for a successful
career in Defence.
LACW Booker started helping out the Directorate
of Indigenous Affairs (IA) while working within the
Air Force Security Police. In February, she began
a permanent position within IA as an Indigenous
LACW Booker said that seeing others achieve
success within Defence is more of a reward than
her own success and far outweighs her own career
LACW Booker sees her job as more than just a
group leader of the IPRC. Her job is to assist each
participant in finding their own voice and to make
sure those voices are heard.
Her involvement with all IPRC participants does
not end at the conclusion of the eight-week course.
She makes a true connection with all participants
and their families and that bond doesn’t stop until
the member says so.
In addition to working on the program, LACW
Booker has also helped shape it.
Having completed the Department of Families,
Housing, Community Services and Indigenous
Affairs’ (FaHCSIA) Women’s Indigenous Leadership
Course, LACW Booker supported its inclusion
into the IPRC by aiming to build confidence in the
participants so they are ready and worthy for a job
She describes the course as the most inspiring
thing she’s ever done and something she wanted to
share with the IPRC participants.
“After one week you feel like you can move
mountains,” LACW Booker said.
When asked her opinion on why the IPRC has such
a high success rate, LACW Booker’s response
clearly reflects the NAIDOC message of leading –
not showing – the way.
“The program is very demanding on participants.
It encourages them to make decisions, believe in
who they are, know where they want to be, and
respect themselves and others.
“The program gives participants the
encouragement, support and confidence so that
they can achieve the goals and dreams that they
would not have thought possible.”
LACW Booker also said the program works
because it is similar to the real thing and
National Aboriginal and Islander Day
Observance Committee (NAIDOC)
week occurs in July each year. It
celebrates Aboriginal and Torres
Strait cultures and encourages all
Australians to share in activities that
demonstrate the ideal of an inclusive
and diverse nation.
This year’s national NAIDOC theme
aBOVe: From left: Petty Officer
Electronics Technician Matt Williams,
Petty Officer Bosun Mark Woodhouse,
Mr Kyle Vander-Kuyp, and Leading
Aircraftwoman Deb Booker at the 2010
Defence Aboriginal and Torres Straight
Islander Conference at HMAS Cerberus
earlier this year. Photo: ABIS Andrew
By Krystalla Pearce
Closing the gap
is ‘Unsung Heroes – Closing the Gap
by Leading Their Way’. The theme
aims to recognise the many quiet
and humble Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander people who have
made significant contributions within
the wider Australian community.
The theme also celebrates
Indigenous people setting their own
participants are made accountable for their
“They are taught not to judge people, as we don’t
know what journey individuals are going through
and we are not walking in other people’s shoes.”
Originally from Pinjarra in Western Australia,
LACW Booker moved to Alice Springs as a two-
year-old. She grew up within a close community of
aunts and uncles that taught her about her culture.
Her mother was a teacher at an Indigenous school
and could speak the local language and used to
take LACW Booker and her siblings along when
she took students on bush trips and excursions.
While LACW Booker still feels like she has a
long way to go in terms of understanding, she is
grateful for the exposure she had to Indigenous
culture as a child.
“Growing up within that close network was
awesome, I totally loved that,” LACW Booker said.
She also argues that it is a lack of family and
cultural knowledge among Indigenous Australians
that leads to a lot of the misconceptions, shame
and embarrassment of Indigenous heritage.
Many Indigenous Australians are not as fortunate
as LACW Booker to have been brought up within
“They don’t know their culture and don’t want to
acknowledge it in case they’re seen as a bludger,”
LACW Booker said.
However, she says is definitely widening.
“Sorry has happened, reconciliation has been
taken up by the Government, but it is now up to us
as a community to take responsibility and make a
LACW Booker hopes she can also make a
difference to close the gap. She is passionate
about the need for Indigenous Australians to have
pride in themselves and reclaim their heritage.
One regret is that her parents didn’t talk about
the past. One of her goals now is to find out more
about her family history, about her culture and
re-learn the language she has lost.
LACW Booker is a strong and driven woman who
welcomes a huge amount of people and activity
into her life with open arms. She has a lot to be
proud of, yet remains modest of her successes.
In addition to working up to three jobs at a time at
some points in her life, Deb has also managed to
represent Alice Springs in soccer, softball, touch
football and netball and continues to represent
Defence across a wide range of sports.
And on top of all of that, Deb has three children
and four grandchildren (at the ripe old age of
41). Juggling family and work has not been easy,
however she is clearly not one to shy away from
the responsibilities she takes on and her kids have
always supported her along the way.
LACW Booker said she is happy where she is now
but knows there is still so much more out there.
Perhaps it is this humble appreciation along with
an acknowledgment and eagerness for how much
more there is to learn that makes LACW Booker,
and so many other unsung heroes, some of the
best leaders there are.
BeLOW: Indigenous Affairs
Liaison officer, Leading
Aircraftwoman Deb Booker, with
Gapuwiyak school children at an
Indigenous community 230km
south-west of Nhulunbuy.
Deb Booker (3rd from
left) with Air Force
and Navy members at
a remote indigenous
direction, leading by example and
taking ownership of the Closing
the Gap initiative. The campaign
aims to close the life expectancy
gap between Indigenous and non-
For this to be achieved, gaps need to
be closed in education, employment,
knowledge and understanding.
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