growing career of Corporal Tara Enchong is a success story of Air Force’s Cross Cultural Mentoring Program, which builds a greater understanding of Indigenous culture across the service and helps participants achieve their potential.
The air intelligence analyst from RAAF Base Amberley has progressed her career with mentoring support from Squadron Leader Simon Longley, the Commanding Officer of Air Force’s Combat Survival Training School in Townsville.
A long-time mentor, Squadron Leader Longley said supporting Corporal Enchong through the program is a mutually rewarding experience.
“Building cultural awareness among all personnel is key to understanding how to get the best from our people,” Squadron Leader Longley said.
“Being able to understand someone’s background, and have respect for their differences, provides a positive outlook for them – building a sense of inclusion and allowing Defence to harness their commitment to serve.”
Meeting and working with Squadron Leader Longley in Afghanistan in 2011 and keeping up a working relationship with him since then has helped open many doors in Corporal Enchong’s career.
“Having Simon as my mentor has been of invaluable help, particularly now as I aim to achieve the goal of becoming an Indigenous Liaison Officer,” Corporal Enchong said.
“Our First Nations members walk in two worlds – one with our peers in uniform and the other with our mob in culture. Programs like this allow us the unique opportunity to share our culture with our mentors, who can then effect positive change in the wider workforce and start breaking down the barriers between those two worlds.
“Our culture, the thing that sets us apart is actually one of our greatest assets, so when we’re able to merge all that into our Air Force roles and show up to work fully and authentically, that’s when we’re able to make the best contribution to Defence and our communities.”
Developing the talent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander personnel is a priority for Air Force, and NAIDOC Week has served as a reminder of the importance of not only recognising but embracing culture and capability across Defence.
The Cross Cultural Mentoring Program is an initiative under Common Ground, Air Force’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan 2019-2028.
The program offers two pathways for personnel. On the first pathway, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander personnel receive mentoring within a cultural setting by another senior (in culture) member.
The second pathway offers personnel professional development and career guidance from a mentor, who in turn develops their own understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.
Squadron Leader Langley said reconciliation is important to Air Force through initiatives such as the Cross Cultural Mentoring Program.
“Reaching our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recruiting goals will be easier if we can provide an environment where our personnel feel wanted and supported by Defence,” he said.
He encouraged Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members to contact the Air Force Headquarters Indigenous Affairs Team to become involved in the program.
“As for those thinking about joining the program as mentors, you’ll find it to be a rewarding experience and will very likely learn a few things you didn’t know from your mentee, as I have from Tara,” he said.