Aimee McCartney
Taungurung, Wotjobuluk, Wemba Wemba and Boon Wurrung woman
Flight Lieutenant
Royal Australian Air Force – 6 years

Australian Defence Force Medal

I am a proud Taungurung, Wotjobaluk, Wemba Wemba and Boon Wurrung woman from Victoria, and I am the eldest girl of nine children. I was born and raised on Wurundjeri Country in Naarm Melbourne. From 2005 – 2010 I completed my secondary schooling at Ivanhoe Girls Grammar School from 2011 – 2013 I completed a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Australian History and Archaeology at the University of Melbourne. For the next six years, I worked in State and Federal Government establishing clear and accessible employment pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander peoples, across all departments, divisions and business units. On 10 August 2018, I commissioned as an Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force and then commenced my initial military training at Officer Training School at RAAF Base East Sale. Upon completion of my initial military training, I was posted to No. 21 Squadron at RAAF Base Point Cook as the Indigenous Liaison Officer. During this time, I participated in Exercise Talisman Sabre 2019 and was deployed on Operation COVID Assist 19. After three years, I was then posted to No. 30 Squadron as the Indigenous Liaison Officer for RAAF Base East Sale on Gunaikurnai country. Since then, I have remained on Gunaikurnai country and I am currently posted to Headquarters Air Academy as the Unit Personnel Capability Officer. I am also an emerging contemporary Aboriginal Artist and Muralist under the name Luruk-In meaning ‘Your Sister’ in my mothers language Taungurung.  

From the time of the Boer War to the present day, our people have served our nation in every conflict in which Australia has been involved in. I believe the concept of protecting Country did not stop with the arrival of European settlement as we have been protecting Country for generations upon generations. I am proud to be serving my country and I do this by being proud of who I am and where I come from. For too long the service of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians has been a history known only to our families and communities. Our stories and achievements have been in the shadows but now is our moment, my moment to share mine with you.

I come from a long line of Aboriginal men and women who have served in the Australian Defence Force. My Great-Great Great Grandfather Private Alfred Jackson Coombs known as “Jack” served in WW1 in the 60th Battalion, 4th Reinforcement in the Australian Imperial Force. Jack was born at Ebenezer Mission near Horsham in the Wimmera region of Victoria. Jack enlisted on the 19 May 1916 at the age of 29, and his brother Willie Coombs aged 18, followed him two weeks later. Both Jack and Willie embarked from Melbourne, Victoria and were based on the Western Front. On 2 September 1918, during the Battle of Amiens, Jack was gassed and did not return to the field. He returned to Australia on 24 July 1919, four days before the end of the war and was  discharged on 11 November 1919. He soon found work on a station near Balranald in New South Wales and, on 14 February 1920, married Mary Kirby. They had three boys, Cecil, Archie and Cornelius. Little else is known about the rest of Jack’s life or the long-term effects of his war service, but we know he was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory medal. Jack died, aged 61, on 27 December 1948  in Drouin.

Jack’s brother Willie was wounded in action in March 1917 on the Western Front, with gunshot wounds to his face and hands. After recuperating for several months in England from gunshot wounds he received to his face and hands he was sent back home to Australia. Willie successfully applied for a partial war pension of 15 shillings per fortnight. In 1953, Willie died of ‘persistent Pneumonia’ in Mildura aged approximately 55 years. Willie, like his brother Jack, was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory medal. My Great-Great Great Uncle Cornelius James Coombs “Corney” enlisted in June 1917, however due to a weakened knee he was discharged as medically unfit for service after 108 days service. 

Other family members who served in WW1 include; Walter Franklin, who enlisted at age 25; Albert Franklin, aged 18 and Leslie Franklin, aged 18.

In the Second World War my family continued to serve their country – with my great aunt, Aunty Jean Williamson (nee Stewart) at aged 19 who enlisted in the Women’s Australian Auxiliary Air Force as a stewardess and my Great-Great Uncle Norman Franklin who served in Papua New Guinea. In more recent times my mother Terrie Stewart and uncle have served in the Australian Regular Army and my cousin Melissa McCartney served in the Royal Australian Navy. These are just 10 stories in my family, and I am proud to share these stories and memories of our little-known history.

Lastly, for all the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who did and still defend this country, those who shared and those who continue to share their stories of service and the stories of their relations, including those no longer with us. We remember them.