Mali Djarrbal
Regional Force Surveillance Group
Australian Army

My clan is Djinpa and was born in the bush outside of Ramingining. My father has four wives and I’ve got 14 brothers and sisters by our four mothers and one father.  I’ve got two grandfathers also and I am a grandmother myself through my two daughters. We work together at the Arafura Swamp Rangers Aboriginal Corporation. I joined NORFORCE, in 2020 at the age of 45 and am the first person in my family to enlist. I was influenced by my ancestors who protected our country during WW2. They were part of about 70 Aboriginal men and women who served with the 2nd / 1st North Australia Observer Unit during World War Two, acting as patrol guides, trackers, ship’s crew and on other duties, performing a key role for the early warning of Japanese activity in northern Australia. I wanted to follow in their footsteps.

In NORFORCE, Warrant Officer Class 2 Tommy Riyakurray Munyarryun OAM and Sergeant Norman Daymirringu were good mentors to me, they understood the white world and showed me how our traditional ways can help protect country. Our knowledge is important. In NORFORCE we go on patrol and teach the white soldiers how to survive in the bush, cultural way. There is food everywhere if you know how to find it. We show them our ‘bush supermarket’ and the white soldiers teach us about military equipment and patrol techniques.

Through NORFORCE I have also been to Canada to talk and work with Patrolmen in their mountains about survival.  It was cold, but I wasn’t shy or nervous, I leant how to make a shelter and wind director monitor their way. We shared together and we found we did the same thing, the same way, just different. Fourteen of us went, I was the only woman in our group. I have also been to Canberra and Darwin as a Mentor representing NORFORCE. I have also been to Fiji for Rangers for the Message Stick Forum, talking about the important of caring for country. I balance my work as a Ranger and as member of NORFORCE. I enjoy being a mentor for young people and I hope that others will see my example and follow.

Our young must go back and learn the stories of our country from our old people. Not wrong stories from wrong country.  They must go back to their country. It is where I learnt who I am and where I come from. I’ll give my story to my grandchildren to pass culture onto their children.