Each year Aboriginal Veterans of South Australia (AVSA) hosts an ANZAC Day Gathering at the Aboriginal War Memorial, Torrens Parade Ground. As like many other events, the current COVID-19 social gathering restrictions have halted this very important annual event.

This year, AVSA had approached Mr Steven Warrior, Narungga, Kokatha and Kaurna man, Flight Lieutenant, and Indigenous Liaison Officer at the Air Force, to be the keynote speaker at the ANZAC Day Gathering.

Reconciliation SA caught up with Steven Warrior, in lieu of not being able to hear his keynote this weekend.

 Can you tell us a little bit about your background and where you grew up?

I am a Narungga, Kokatha and Kaurna custodian. I was born in Adelaide but moved to the Yorke Peninsula at the age of 5. When I completed year 12 I decided to move back to Adelaide to pursue a career in Aboriginal Affairs and Education.

 What kind of previous working experiences did you have prior to joining the Air Force, and has that helped you in your role now?

Prior to working in Air Force I worked in Aboriginal Education for 8 years. Initially I began my career as a mentor supporting Aboriginal students with their literacy, numeracy and wellbeing. After 12 months I was offered a role as an Aboriginal Community Engagement Officer. The primary duties of this role was to implement cultural programs and initiatives to increase Aboriginal engagement, immerse Aboriginal culture and provide support to Aboriginal families. I fulfilled this role for over 7 years which empowered my passion for my culture and to provide opportunities for our people. I gained experience in implementing cultural initiatives and advocating on behalf of Aboriginal people which has assisted in being successful in my current role.

Photo by Sergeant Bill Solomou

What family connections and history do you have in the Defence Force?  Do you think this influenced your decision to join the Air Force? As an Aboriginal man working in the Defence, what does ANZAC day mean to you?

My great-great Grandfather Private Ernest Warrior served in the Australian Army and was enlisted in Infantry on August 22nd 1916, where he then served for 3 years. He embarked for France on the 7th of November 1916 and did not return to Australia until 7th of February 1919. A man who was not acknowledged as a citizen yet risked his life to serve for our country. This resonates with me deeply along with all Indigenous men and women that had served prior to the 1967 Referendum which is why Anzac Day has such significance to me as an Aboriginal man in Defence. The courage and sacrifice of those that served to ensure the survival of our people. Our culture and our country is an ongoing reminder that we must not take what was given to us for granted.

 What are your future aspirations in the Air Force?

My aspirations in Air Force is to immerse local Aboriginal culture into everything we do and provide opportunities to our next generation of Aboriginal leaders. I would then like to remain in the Air Force after my 3-year posting and become a Pilot flying the P-8A Poseidon.

How will you be commemorating ANZAC Day this year given the current restrictions?

It will be a slightly different ANZAC Day given no marches or mass gatherings at the Dawn Service or 11AM service which is a great shame.  But at same time, it will certainly be special in its own way and it is great to see the innovative approaches being adopted such as the stand out on your driveway at 6am initiative that is being promoted through social media.  I am also planning on going down to the very special Aboriginal Veterans Memorial at Torrens Parade Ground in uniform on ANZAC Day at some time and laying a wreath by myself to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of those who have gone before us laying the legacy and current serving members like me I have inherited and now nurture for the future.

As the keynote speaker for the ANZAC Day Gathering, what is the key message you would like to share this ANZAC Day?

Although our Country are is going through a tough time, at the going down of the sun and in the morning ‘We will still remember them, despite COVID 19. The sacrifice and service of those who have gone before us should be remembered and I encourage us all to take a moment this Anzac Day to reflect on those that made the ultimate sacrifice.

Reconciliation SA would like to thank Steven Warrior and AVSA for being so willing to talk and share with us. We would like to wish everyone well during their own private commemorations on ANZAC Day.