• Kapani Warriors, both young Aboriginal men and war veterans stand side-by-side before the start of the Kapani Cup, Aurukun, 13 July, 2019. (Supplied. )Source: Supplied.
Australian war veterans suffering post-traumatic stress disorder have formed a unique bond with young Aboriginal men from remote communities with an extreme endurance event bringing the cohorts together.
By
Douglas Smith

Source:
The Point
16 Jul 2019 - 3:23 PM  UPDATED 16 Jul 2019 - 3:50 PM

For the war veterans who return from some of the world's most dangerous conflicts, post-traumatic stress disorder is highly prevalent, whilst many Aboriginal men living in remote communities suffer from traumatic experiences on a day-to-day basis.  

Unfortunately, PTSD and trans-generational trauma is something the two groups of men have in common and for many of them it can last a lifetime. But for a unique brotherhood in Far North Queensland, it's something that does not define them. 

Kapani Warrior is a military-style program which brings the two cohorts together to share, learn and heal one another in what is a driving force sweeping Cape York. 

One of the founders of the program, Dr Tim White, served in Somalia in 1993 when the country was suffering from a devastating civil war.  Dr White also grew up in Aboriginal communities and is one of the few non-Aboriginal people in Aurukun who can speak the local dialect of Wik. 

On returning from the conflict, he became a psychologist and told NITV News a lot of the men in his battalion were suffering PTSD without knowing it. 

“We started to see high rates of alcoholism, suicide and domestic violence amongst our cohorts or Somalia veterans,” he said. 

“PTSD was something that was just starting to be spoken about." 

Dr White said he noticed the same issues facing Aboriginal men and that's where the idea for Kapani Warrior came from. 

“Around the same time there were conversations being held in Aboriginal communities and amongst Aboriginal men about trauma, about trans-generational trauma," he said. 

The official launch of Kapani came five years ago when Dr White started having a conversation with the then chief of the Australian Defence Force, Dave Hurley who was the commanding officer of Operation Solace in Somalia. 

In what has taken almost two decades to come to fruition, the Kapani Warrior program has since graduated 157 Warriors who have gone on to enter army service in either the Northern Surveillance Training, the regular army or the Army Indigenous Development Program. 

Upon entering the army, Kapani graduates have an 87% rate of completion of recruit training. 

According to Queensland police statistics there has also been a significant overall reduction in community public nuisance offences amongst the graduates post-program, from 66 per cent to 75 per cent in various communities, with an attendant 1 per cent recidivism rate around domestic violence.

JOCKTON FOURMILE - A NATURAL LEADER 

Jockton Fourmile is a 20-year-old Yagaljida man from Yarrabah whose house burned to the ground just two days before the inaugural Kapani Cup in Aurukun over the weekend, leaving him with nothing but the clothes on his back. 

Despite the devastating blow to his personal life, Jockton still made the 15-hour trip from Yarrabah to Aurukun to represent his community and lead his team to victory. 

Jockton became a Kapani Warrior last year when the brotherhood recruited in his hometown.

Talking to NITV, he explained how the brotherhood of Aboriginal men and war veterans go together: 

“We got a lot of respect for them, they got a lot of respect for us. They look after us, we look after them.

“We teach em some of our traditional ways of hunting and that….yeah, just take 'em out and show 'em some of our cultures you know.

“Keep them occupied and that, keep their mind off what they been through back in the days when they went out to war, the old veterans.”

Jockton still lives back home in Yarrabah, where he said not much was happening for him. But now, he’s hopeful about the future and has the desire to make something of himself.

“I wanna join up in the army, do something with my life, get myself a good job, you know…buy myself a car, boat.

“I don’t wanna stay in the community you know, do what I was doing, I wanna get out…explore," he said. 

NEIL SYKES - A SPECIAL BOND 

Within the brotherhood of Warriors, special bonds are made between veterans and young men.  

One of those bonds is between Neil Sykes and Scott 'Pez' Perry who came to know one another a few years ago when Kapani recruited in Neil's home community of Wujal Wujal, four and a half hours north of Cairns. 

Since the two met, both men say they have become like family, always looking out for each other. 

“When I first met him, he first came there in 2017, and we got pretty close, real close…he’s just like a brother to me and now he’s adopted to one of our aunties back home," said Neil. 

“If I didn’t meet Pez and the rest of the blokes at Kapani, I don’t know what I be, I don’t know…I would have been back home... getting in trouble," he said. 

But what makes this relationship even more special is the name Neil gave his daughter in honour of the men who helped turn his life around.

"My daughter Somalia, I heard the blokes talking about their overseas trip and just talking about Somalia and that popped up in my head….my ex was pregnant at the time with a little girl and that was a good name for a little girl and something I wanted to give back to Kapani for what they did for me," he said. 

Pez, who is the godfather to Neil's daughter, served in Somalia and also said the bond between the two has helped with his PTSD. 

“Personally, a lot of men that come back from the wars, the conflicts or whatever you want to call them, are a little bit broken," said Pez. 

It’s like a two-way street, we’re helping the communities and not only that, we’re helping veterans as well, so it’s like a double-edged sword, everyone gets benefit out of it," he said. 

– For more on the Kapani Cup watch NITV's The Point (Ch34), Wednesday 8.30pm.

Cape bush challenge puts other endurance events to shame
First Nations men from five different communities across Cape York and the Gulf of Carpentaria will compete for the title of 'toughest' Far North Queensland community.