Home' Navy News : August 15th 2013 Contents 16 FEATURES
www.defence.gov.au/news/NAVYNEWS August 15, 2013
ENSURING that Navy remains
focused on all aspects of diver-
sity is a key priority for CN
VADM Ray Griggs, which
is why he has appointed a strategic
adviser on Islamic cultural affairs.
CAPT Mona Shindy, who heads
up the Guided Missile Frigate System
Program Office, accepted the position
in March and has welcomed the oppor-
tunity to create better understanding
among Defence members and the
wider Islamic community.
"This is an exciting time for Navy
and I think we have a real chance to
open a lot of people's eyes and encour-
age discussion on issues from different
lenses of view," she says.
"Throughout my life I've often felt
like a bridge straddling communities. I
hope this new position will help close
this divide for the good of all."
Fifteen Muslims serve in Navy
and 88 are employed across the ADF,
figures that CAPT Shindy aims to
"These numbers are quite small,
which shows that perhaps a career in
the ADF is not part of the thinking of
the Australian Islamic community."
VADM Griggs says he is "pleased
that CAPT Shindy has agreed to work
directly for me on this critical issue."
"It is not just about recruitment, but
about enhancing the diversity and capa-
bility of the Navy and gaining a much
deeper understanding of many of the
navies we work with on a regular basis,"
VADM Griggs said.
While the reasons for the lower
representation of Muslims within Navy
are yet to be identified, CAPT Shindy
says misunderstandings and miscon-
ceptions on both sides are probably
playing a part.
"There may be a lack of confidence
from members of the Islamic commu-
nity in relation to whether or not they
would be accepted, as media reports
on apparent 'Muslim' activities are
generally more negative than positive,"
"My role will be to explore and dis-
pel the myth that the behaviours of a
few unsavoury characters operating on
the fringes of a community somehow
represent the values and principles of
"By starting the conversation,
Navy will get a better understanding
about Muslims' attitudes and beliefs
and about their compatibility with the
ADF. Likewise, the Australian Muslim
community will have greater opportu-
nities to see the Navy in particular, and
the ADF more broadly, as an employer
Navy's first Islamic cultural adviser is excited
about her new role, Natalie Staples reports.
of choice. From there we can see what
can be done to tap into some of the tal-
ent that might be out there."
It's not all about recruitment
though with education firmly on the
"As a Navy we frequently work
with other navies that are predomi-
nantly Muslim," CAPT Shindy says.
"This is a chance to educate our
people a little more about the way
Muslims think about life in general.
This will help us to engage and operate
together better and form stronger ties."
CAPT Shindy says the Navy is
already well positioned to improve
cultural sensitivity and has been
embracing change for years.
"As a woman, as a Muslim and as
an engineer I have had a box seat to
seeing Navy evolve," she says.
"During my 24 years in Defence
there's been a lot of change. Have
there been challenges -- yes absolutely.
Has there been resistance by some
individuals with certain views, yes but
we are getting there.
"Navy today is much more inclu-
sive and we're moving in a much more
positive direction day by day."
While the ADF already has broad
policies which are inclusive of religious
difference, there are some new initia-
tives already in train which will pull
down some of the barriers. An example
of this is the recent approval of Islamic
attire as an option for Navy uniform.
"The introduction of the hijab and
looser fitting uniforms as an option
removes one barrier that could prevent
a female of Islamic faith considering a
career in Navy," CAPT Shindy says.
"This is a good example of Navy
actively pursuing change and open-
ing the door to people who may not
have previously thought about joining
the organisation because of perceived
restrictions on dress."
CAPT Sean Childs
CULTURAL awareness training for
Australian personnel deployed on
Operation Slipper in Afghanistan is
crucial to force protection and mis-
All Australian personnel
deploying to Afghanistan undergo
pre-deployment cultural training.
Cultural awareness enhances the
trust and respect shared between
Australians and their Afghan
National Security Force partners.
LCDR Andrea Argirides'
role at Australia's Afghanistan
Headquarters in Kabul is to con-
duct regular in-country cultural
LCDR Argirides, who is
undertaking post-graduate studies
in cultural heritage and archae-
ology, said ensuring Australian
personnel understood and appreci-
ated the ancient cultural ways of
Afghanistan significantly contrib-
uted to Australia's mission.
"We regularly conduct cultural
briefings for all our people, for
example examining the customs
and ways of the rich ethnic and
tribal diversity of Afghanistan,
including the appreciation of a rich
cultural heritage and archaeologi-
cal landscape," LCDR Argirides
"Briefings encapsulate the com-
plexity of Afghanistan's culture,
examining concepts ranging from
nationality and social class to ide-
ology and gender norms."
Australia's cultural engage-
ment and diplomacy plays an
important role in strengthening
Australia's ongoing relationship
As part of Australia's whole-of-
government effort in Afghanistan,
the Department of Foreign Affairs
and Trade is sponsoring an Afghan
cultural exhibition in Australia.
Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures
of the National Museum, Kabul is
touring Australia's major museums,
providing a unique insight into
Afghanistan's beauty, as opposed
to their recent pervasive history
Appreciating rich cultures
RICH CULTURE: LCDR Andrea Argirides looks at antique books
with a local merchant at Kabul International Airport.
Photo: POIS Phil Cullinan
ENGINEER TO ADVISER: CAPT Mona Shindy inspects work being carried out in auxiliary machine room two
on board HMAS Melbourne at Fleet Base East.
Photo: ABIS Jayson Tufrey
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