NAIDOC Week: Australia’s Ancient War Culture


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The Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders maintained the world’s oldest continuous warrior culture for thousands of years.

Today, they make an invaluable contribution across the entire ADF and in particular through the Regional Force Monitoring Group (RFSG), which is responsible for patrolling and protecting approximately 50 percent of the Australian continent.

The Sarpeye Warriors, Private Leo Akriba (left) and Private Jerry Anau (right) of Charlie Company, 51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment, celebrate the coming of the light on Darnley Island in the Strait of Torres. (Defense)
Australian Army soldiers and officers from the 51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment parade in the colors of Queens and the regiment in a parade celebrating the formation of the Regional Force Watch Group at Larrakeyah Barracks in Darwin .  (Defense)
Australian Army soldiers and officers from the 51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment parade in the colors of Queens and the regiment in a parade celebrating the formation of the Regional Force Watch Group at Larrakeyah Barracks in Darwin . (Defense)

RFSG soldiers combine tactical stealth with traditional language and knowledge to create a military capability unlike any other in the world: the “ears and ears of the army in far Australia”.

“We see the bush, it’s like walking in a library. Just like you read a book, we read the earth. You walk with me, I’ll explain.”

The RFSG is made up of three units: the Pilbara regiment, the NORFORCE regiment, and 51st Far North Queensland Regiment. Each is responsible for a huge area of ​​operations that together covers 52 percent of Australia, 2.5 percent of the world’s total landmass, and many local language groups. Some RFSG soldiers speak up to 17 languages ​​and regularly serve as interpreters during operations.

Australian Army soldiers deployed on Operation Resolute head to a landing zone aboard a regional patrol vessel in Torres Strait.  (Defense)
Australian Army soldiers deployed on Operation Resolute head to a landing zone aboard a regional patrol vessel in Torres Strait. (Defense)

RFSG soldiers are also the first in the military to march with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander weapons of war, merging their ancient warfare traditions with those of the Australian military.

All three units carry out significant engagement with local communities, which in recent years include those of Borroloola and the Barkley area, Jigalong in WA and Wujul Wujul. In 2018, Wujul members joined the ADF for the first time since WWI.

In 2020, the Group had to quadruple its efforts compared to the previous year, because biosecurity controls had an impact on operations and staff had to co-manage the territory’s response to the pandemic.

Nonetheless, at the end of 2020, RFSG opened a new training and education center to support Australia’s border protection capacity while providing new education and employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians.

Image and video credit: Ministry of Defense

An Australian Army soldier from the 51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment performs a traditional Sarpeye dance following a parade celebrating the formation of the Regional Force Watch Group at Larrakeyah Barracks in Darwin.  (Defense)
An Australian Army soldier from the 51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment performs a traditional Sarpeye dance following a parade celebrating the formation of the Regional Force Watch Group at Larrakeyah Barracks in Darwin. (Defense)
An Australian Army Soldier from the 51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment, performs a traditional Sarpeye dance following a parade celebrating the formation of the Regional Force Watch Group in Darwin.  (Defense)
An Australian Army Soldier from the 51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment, performs a traditional Sarpeye dance following a parade celebrating the formation of the Regional Force Watch Group in Darwin. (Defense)

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