Cameron Clark
Bundjalung People
Petty Officer
Royal Australian Navy


Medals and Awards:
Australian Operational Service Medal – Border Protection
Australian Defence Medal
Commanding Officers Commendation 2017
Commanding Officers Commendation 2015
Australia Day Achievement Award 2023


I grew up on a dairy farm just outside of Casino NSW, with three siblings in a small home, we didn’t have much but we had enough. There was no ceiling fans or air-conditioning back then, if you wanted to cool off, you went and laid under the trees or if you were lucky, find some concrete in the shade. The farm provided a great sense of pride and work ethic for me and without realising it at the time, a great sense of connection to country and caring for country.

I have always been a very competitive person and that certainly reflected with my siblings, growing up with three sisters and not much on offer, it was always a competition. In between working, we would battle it out for hours seeing who the best at any given sport. I think my parents also saw this early and encouraged my sporting potential along with working on the farm.

Growing up in a rural town, there wasn’t a lot to keep people busy or out of trouble for long. I thought I was missing out working on the farm but in hindsight, it kept me out of a lot of that. I remember operating heavy machinery from an early age thinking it was normal and couldn’t understand why kids in town didn’t know how to plant ryegrass, drive machinery or build fences. How times changed when I drove in a big city and saw traffic lights and trams for the first time.

Growing up, culture wasn’t something strongly displayed or discussed amongst the youth. I grew up in a time of shame, injustice, domestic and lateral violence and stereotyping that had significant negative impacts on our community.

I was fortunate to have one or two role models who took the time to teach me some important values about our culture and what it meant to be a strong Indigenous man. I remember one of my proudest achievements as a teenager was making and throwing boomerang, which after much practice, came straight back into my hands. I remember saying to that old fulla ‘see that, I’m a man now’ to which he laughed and shook his head.

I made the decision to leave home form an early age and not accept the status quo, I could not see myself settling to become the next generation dairy farmer and not knowing what else is out there in the world.

I joined the Royal Australian Navy at the age of seventeen (17) and didn’t look back. After joining, within a short period I had been to other States, Territories and Countries I didn’t even know existed, or had done things I would never have thought possible. Serving in the Navy really opened my eyes to the world and what taking a leap and believing in yourself could actually look and feel like. I was still in a battle with myself not fully understanding or wanting to circle back on my sense of belonging and cultural heritage, which meant I kept this to myself. My time in the Navy has given me the opportunity to experience connection on multiple levels, which has allowed me to generate a deeper understanding within myself and others and the importance of culture, belonging and ongoing connection back to country.

After a number of years progressing my career and developing myself, I decided it was time to give back and asked myself the question, ‘What didn’t you have growing up that you want to ensure our youth of tomorrow can have?’. To me the answer came without hesitation, role models of a positive nature, consistent and supportive, no matter how hard it got. Similar to the old men who gave me their support through my youth.

I also wanted to show there are opportunities in life, there are pathways to change and there is a way to get out of your environment if you so choose. Be the example that breaks the cycle. Indigenous or not, I believe our youth are so much more capable and resilient than what we sometimes believe

I wanted to effect positive change from the inside out, I want us as a Defence Force to recognise, appreciate and support the ongoing sacrifices and commitments that Indigenous personnel have and continue to make. I aim to break down those barriers and show our mob that things are within reach and that there are pathways available. They need to know there is always support and we who have been in your shoes will help you get the support you need. I think there is a real sense of fulfilment in encouraging and supporting people to achieve their full potential and for me, that is one of the most rewarding job opportunities I’ve had the pleasure of doing.

Sometimes, I do question if we have done enough, or if we are committed enough, but with the support of community and culture within Navy and the wider community, I feel anything is possible. I am so grateful that First Nations peoples are so supportive and no matter what family ties or different songlines, everyone is always welcome. That power and generosity are what keep our culture alive and strong today. I couldn’t be more proud to be just a small part of the oldest surviving culture on the planet. Many battles may have been lost along the way but our fight and strength to continue will always be there.

I believe that being a part of First Nations culture is a superpower, the connection, the stories, and our history throughout time are all attributed to our ability and our worth. If you can understand and know your value, know your worth and be willing to face challenges through adversity and share in the good times, then that’s pretty powerful to me.