Participants from 16 different nations have been welcomed to Larrakia country as part of the Opening Ceremony celebrations for Exercise Pitch Black 18, by the traditional Owners of the lands and waters.
Mr Richard Fejo is a Larrakia man from his father, grandfather and great-grandfather under grandfather law. He is also the Chairman of the board of the Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation in Darwin and conducted the ceremony.
“We the Larrakia, are the traditional owners and custodians of Darwin and its surrounding regions and although we are known as saltwater people, our land boundaries extend approximately 50 kilometres inland.” Said Mr Fejo.
“The Larrakia have always been a welcoming people and we are proud, that people who come to our land, come from various backgrounds, choose to either visit or live here.
“Aboriginal people believe that in the beginning during a time we call the dream time, there was nothing. An empty land with no people, no animals, no light and no colour. Then there was the first sunrise and the sun, our bringer of life looked over our lands and saw how empty our lands were, so he called for the rainbow serpent to rise from our mother, the earth and to cross the land.
“As the serpent travelled around Australia and the land was formed in the shape of the hills and rivers that filled with the waters and colours that fill this great land.
“Larrakia people believe that from our mother, the earth, spirits of trees, animals and people rose up from the grounds and seas and life began. The first Larrakia man was given the rules or Aboriginal laws that future Aboriginal people must follow to sustain our lands.
“We call the Earth our mother because when we care for our mother, our mother provides for us. So our rules include firstly how we live amongst each other in kinship as a society and community sharing and caring for each other.
“Secondly, how we live among and preserve the fish and animals around us to create sustainability and therefore ongoing life for us by not eating our animal totems or not hunting out of season.
“And thirdly, how we must care for and protect our Mother Earth through using the cultural knowledge passed onto us from the first Larrakia man and under the guidance of our spiritual ancestors.
“Then the rainbow travelled a second time around Australia and gave Aboriginal people our languages and thus our identities.
“Today we who share this land have a great and shared responsibility to care for our country, the people, the community, the flora and fauna are our way of life.
“So traditionally, when people from other lands visit aboriginal country, a welcome to country would be performed by a traditional owner, not only to acknowledge the original inhabitants past and present but to give those receiving the welcome to country safe passage through our lands under the guidance and protection of our ancestors,
“While you are here on Larrakia land remember my story, care for the community yourselves and each other. Care for our flora and fauna, and care for our lands because while you are here, you are writing the Larrakia story that belongs to all of us.
“Embrace Larrakia land and let Larrakia land embrace you in return.
“I wish you all the best as you set out to achieve your goals...
"You have come by way of Larrakia land, you will hear the voices of our ancestors, when you leave you take the Larrakia message with you" - Reverend W Fejo.
“Ladies and gentlemen, may our ancestors guide and protect you always, thank you.”
Air Force acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land upon which RAAF Base Darwin rests, the Larrakia people, and pay respects to their Elders both past and present.