Gary Oakley was born in Katoomba NSW and his mob are the Gundungurra. He is the National President of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans and Services Association (ATSIVSA). Gary speaks to Gman on 3KND.
This Saturday – August the 15th – marks the 75th Anniversary of the End of the Second World War – also known as VP Day or Victory in the Pacific Day. After 6 long years and many tens of thousands of deaths, the men and women who had served our nation both overseas and here on the home-front could finally look forward to getting back to civilian life.
Many of our First Nations men and women put their hands up to help out in some capacity. But much of that story and history is relatively unknown. Gary Oakley is the Indigenous Liaison Officer for the Royal Australian Air Force, or RAAF, and has studied Indigenous war participation for many years. Gary’s connection with the military started as a member of the cadet corps at high school, he joined the Royal Australian Navy as a Junior Recruit in 1969 serving on ships HMAS Duchess, HMAS Sydney (Vietnam service), HMAS Perth, HMAS Stewart, HMAS Stalwart and the submarines HMAS Oxley and Ovens.
While at HMAS Platypus he became curator of the 1st Australian Submarine Squadron Museum, and on leaving the RAN, took up a curatorial position at the Australian War Memorial in the 1991. As a member of the Navy Reserve for twenty two years, he worked closely with the Navy History section, documenting and researching naval history, and also assisting with Indigenous Affairs. At ADF, he helped with their Indigenous Pre-Recruitment courses, as well as travelling to community to speak to Indigenous youth in relation to careers in the Defence Force.
He was the first Indigenous Liaison Officer employed at the Australian War Memorial; he also worked as the curator in the Exhibitions section and curated most of the major gallery refurbishments leaving the AWM after 25 year transferring from the Navy Reserve to the Royal Australian Air Force. He has been a curator at the Bavarian Army Museum in Ingolstadt, Germany, and studied Cultural Heritage Management and Museum Studies at the University of Canberra.
Gary transferred in late 2014 to the Air Force as a Squadron Leader within Air Force’s Indigenous Affairs branch as the Air Force Indigenous Historical Custodian. At present he is the Senior Indigenous Liaison Officer (SILO) for the Royal Australian Air Force, and manages 12 Indigenous Flight Lieutenants who are situated around Australia on Air Force Bases.