Squadron Leader Gary Oakley awarded Memorial Fellowship

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Acknowledging a distinguished career as curator, member of the Royal Australian Air Force, and advocate for recognition of Indigenous military service, Squadron Leader Gary Oakley has been honoured by the Council of the Australian War Memorial with the prestigious Fellowship.

Oakley began working at the Australian War Memorial in 1991 as a curator in the Military Heraldry and Technology section. In 2009 he was appointed the Memorial’s first Indigenous Liaison Officer, a role specifically created to advance awareness of Indigenous Australian involvement in the nation’s military history.

Director Dr Brendan Nelson praised the commitment and professionalism Oakley has displayed throughout his long career at the Memorial.

“Gary has become an intrinsic part of the work we do at the Australian War Memorial. We look to him for advice and perspective on the ongoing interpretation of the proud history of Indigenous service over the past century. The role he plays has changed over the years and we are happy to be able to recognise his hard work in this evolving and important space,” Dr Nelson said.

Through his curatorial work, and drawing on his experience in the Royal Australian Naval Reserves, Oakley has researched Indigenous service across all theatres of war. Engaging with key stakeholders, including the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and Australian Defence Force (ADF) history and heritage units, he has established a reputation as a leading expert on Indigenous Australian military history.

Oakley’s work on Indigenous service has enabled the Memorial to develop meaningful engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. He has also established a vital relationship with the ADF through his role as National President of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans and Services Association, in which he is able to liaise with the ADF as it develops its own recognition of the service of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in its ranks.

Oakley also played a pivotal role in developing the Memorial’s groundbreaking exhibition For Country, for Nation, and inspired the Memorial’s first Reconciliation Action Plan. He has promoted pride in the service of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and through his influence 2017 was the first time the Anzac Day march was led by representatives of this group.

Squadron Leader Oakley continues to liaise and advocate for the recognition of Indigenous service and heritage, both historical and contemporary. In recognition of his continuing commitment to the vision and work of the Memorial, the Council of the Australian War Memorial is pleased to induct Gary Oakley as a Fellow.

SQNLDR Gary Oakley

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