Tjapukai Shaw
Wiradjuri and Muruwari man
Flight Lieutenant
Royal Australian Air Force

Australian Defence Medal


I was born and raised in Dubbo, a regional town in New South Wales. I left Dubbo and travelled to Brisbane to become a barber, but in 2018 when I was given the opportunity to join the Royal Australian Air Force, I jumped at it. I was part of the inaugural Indigenous Liaison Officer course, which made me one of the very first RAAF Indigenous Liaison Officers. Based at RAAF Richmond NSW, it was great to be able to share my experiences with service members who hadn’t had much exposure to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, especially for those with misconceptions about mob. In some ways, it was a cultural exchange between the Aboriginal community and the Air Force, and it generated positive outcomes for both. It was a 9-5 job, and I enjoyed it, but after a conversation with Wing Commander Adrian Willey, an RAAF flying instructor on the C-130J Hercules, I knew that I wanted to be a pilot. We ran through some sequences in the C-130J simulator, and he was impressed with how I listened and my focus and precision. He thought I’d taken to flying really quickly and had the potential to become a pilot. So, in July 2022, I began pilot training, and in November 2023, I earned my wings, graduating from the 272 Phase 2 ADF Intermediate Pilots’ Course. I’m still based at RAAF Richmond, although now I’m flying a C-130J Hercules, transporting cargo and people, and assisting humanitarian and disaster relief.

I think back to some of the decisions I made and why. My hope is that other Indigenous kids can see themselves having opportunities. By continuing my service in the RAAF as a proud Wiradjuri and Muruwari man, I hope that Indigenous kids will be able to see another grassroots blackfella giving it a crack and succeeding.