CULTURE, spotlight -

Aboriginal skills taken up by the army

The bushcraft, tracking and navigation skills of Aboriginal people are being used by the Australian Army to train its soldiers.

The army’s new ‘Tulugal Program’ takes its name from Tulugal, a formidable spirit of Dreamtime stories from the Yuin tribe in south-east Australia.

Tulugal materialises like a ghost or shadow, emerging from the natural landscape to haunt and wreak havoc on those who have done wrong.

Program creator Lieutenant-Colonel John Molnar says cavalry scouts of the Australian Army embody the qualities of Tulugal.

“Cavalry scouts are trained to observe without being seen, operating as one with the natural environment and capable of coordinating firepower to break contact or enable freedom of troop movement before disappearing without leaving a trace,” he says.

The program aims to recognise, respect and value the relationship that Aboriginal people have with the natural environment, embracing field and tracking skills developed over thousands of years to build capability within a modern defence force.

“Without an understanding and appreciation of the land, we are blind to the opportunities and threats that may surround us, so it is important that we learn how to read the land and the secrets and stories it holds,” Lieutenant-Colonel Molnar says.

“Aboriginal people have been doing this successfully for thousands of years.”

Wurundjeri elder Uncle Bill Nicholson Jr was invited by the army to present a Tulugal pin to participants.

“Having Uncle Bill present us with the Tulugal pin was meaningful,” says trooper Luke Green, a participant of the program.

“It was a great way to finish the program, which was all about our respect and recognition of Indigenous knowledge and the connection with the land.

“This kind of knowledge can help us to read and interpret the information we are gathering on the battlefield.

“We’ve learnt that every blade of grass tells a story.”

Captain Lucy Saaroni


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