Flight Lieutenant Tjapukai Shaw, Royal Australian Air Force

A young male pilot in front of a military aeroplane.

Flight Lieutenant Tjapukai Shaw has been in the RAAF for nine months and is currently attached to 22 Squadron. He is an Indigenous Liaison Officer based at RAAF Base Richmond.

Flight Lieutenant Shaw grew up in Dubbo, NSW and says it was never his intention to join the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

‘It was a complete go with the flow sort of thing,’ he says.

He says his graduation from Officer Training School was a career highlight. ‘Having my family there was definitely a high.’

Flight Lieutenant Shaw explains what it means to him to serve.

‘My culture, my heritage, we’ve been here for 80,000-plus years. To protect the country that my ancestors are from is a massive thing.

‘You know the generations immediately before me served this country before even being citizens. So, if they can do that without even being citizens of Australia, then I can continue that, being accepted as I am.’

He says he hasn’t been in the ADF long enough to experience people thanking him for his service but the work he is doing, especially in Indigenous communities, is making a difference.

‘The things that I’ve done have had an impact on people’s lives where they sort of think: “I never thought I’d see one of my own in uniform”. It’s a different experience but it’s still as an amazing feeling as being thanked.’

Flight Lieutenant Shaw thinks it is important that people say “thank you for your service”.

‘Before joining Defence, I never really thought about the ADF as much, especially in regards to thanking them for their service. But when you get that exposure and you see what people do, you understand it. People sacrifice a lot to work in the ADF so I think something as simple as saying “thank you” is a very important concept.’