President of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans and services association of Western Australia, Dianne Ryder is a proud Noongar woman who’s served in the army for over 20 years.
After dedicating a lifetime to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans contribution to the army is recognised, Dianne has now recieved the Life Time Achievement title at this years NAIDOC Awards.
“I am a Noongar woman and I decided to join the army, which left a lot of people scratching their heads, mum used to call me cheeky and hard headed.”
But it was one of her reports in the army that labeled her as forthright which made her believe she was the perfect person for the job.
“I guess that cheekiness followed through because it made me believe I do have a voice and it’s not about being disrespectful, it’s also saying ‘hey this isn’t good enough’ and when I have something to say, I say it with respect.”
"All of that the uniqueness of this service to have the cultural and the military – I mean how often do you see that?"
The Indigenous Veterans commemorations service has been going for 12 years. It was organised by some of the Vietnam vets that got together and decided this needed to happen in order to commemorate the contribution made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans. Dianne says this was an essential move because when they came back from war, there was no acknowledgement of their contribution.
“When you hear that even some of them came back and their families were taken away because them as the bread winner were away fighting overseas… but even to hear they couldn’t have a drink in the pubs, I won’t say criminal but it’s very sad.”
Dianne says we’ve got to keep events celebrating long service and culture must continue.
“Services where we get our young kids dancing, singing in Noongar to commence celebrations and uncles coming to do the welcome to country and didge playing – all of that the uniqueness of this service to have the cultural and the military – I mean how often do you see that?”
For several Aboriginal people, culture was lost along the way. Dianne says it’s important these ceremonies not only continue but also grow bigger to ensure its importance spreads to other communities.
“There was so much negative stuff about Aboriginal people back in those early days you sort of pull away and think if culture is important, but it’s been over the last few years where culture has played a very important part of my life. I am putting my name out there by saying ‘hey I do want to do welcome to country, I’m learning more and my culture is important’.”
Despite negative connotations about Indigenous people, Dianne says looking back, her parents were wonderful, inspiring and the reason behind her passion for culture and country.
“Dad went out to work while mum raised 11 kids. I have one child and my back is up against the wall and I think really mum? But that just shows the resilience of who they were, back in those days you just did what you needed to do,” she said.
“They always taught us that strong family values and strong work ethics get you where you need to go and that’s true, I live by that. If you don’t have family, you don’t have anything.”