PUCKAPUNYAL Military Area personnel experienced an afternoon of cultural inclusion and engagement with Melbourne University Regiment, participating in a welcome to country ceremony last Monday.

The regiment began reserve courses at the military area by introducing new staff and trainees to Australia’s oldest culture and traditions.

Tribal elder Shane Monk led the Welcome to Country smoking ceremony, otherwise known as ‘burt ngarri’ – a cultural practice performed to cleanse the land and body of bad spirts.

Participants discussed the local Indigenous language, clans, significant sites, artefacts, creation stories, the possum cloak and overall culture.

Mr Monk said he was extremely thankful to the regiment for including more of a complete cultural discussion, instead of just the Welcome to Country.

The Taungurung elder urged more organisations to consider including a more-rounded discussion when planning future events and was enthusiastic about providing as much information as he could to the trainees and staff.

Mr Monk added how pleased he was to see Puckapunyal and how well the land had been looked after.

It was highlighted that there were many similarities when considering the use of the land by Aboriginal people and the defence members undertaking their training – especially when selecting a harbour – or camping ground.

Trainees were urged to study the benefits of understanding how to live off the country for survival, blend in with the land – using its features for movement and a tactical advantage.

Armed with new knowledge from Mr Monk, the trainees continued with completion of their respective courses.

If successful with their training, they will be soon posted to their particular units with a better understanding of the Aboriginal culture and a sound introduction to NAIDOC.