Chief Petty Officer Ray Rosendale is one of the Royal Australian Navy’s proudest change makers. He is helping the Navy grow a professionally diverse workforce, mentoring young Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander members through his role as Navy Strategic Adviser on Indigenous Cultural Affairs.
Chief Petty Officer Rosendale was born in Nambour with family in Hopevale, just north of Cooktown in Queensland. He joined the Navy in 1991 at 26, as what was known then as a Quartermaster Gunner, the category preceding Boatswain’s Mate.
He was inspired to join the Navy by his uncle, and his career so far has included service in HMAS Canberra, patrol boats, selection for Naval Police Coxswain, and now his role as Indigenous Affairs Adviser.
‘When I joined the Navy in the 90s I knew only two senior sailors and two junior sailors who were Indigenous Australians.
‘They spoke to me very honestly about the challenges I might face—it was a different Navy back then. “Life in a blue suit” meant everyone needed to be the same, so if you were different, you actually worked hard at not being different.
‘In the Navy today it makes no difference who you are, where you come from, what you look like, as long as you’re a professional, work hard and follow the Navy’s Values—that’s what’s important. It now makes no difference to the Navy if you’re different.’
Chief Petty Officer Rosendale said a high point for change in his eyes was the New Generation Navy cultural change program, introduced just over five years ago.
‘The new, positive and inclusive culture is so ingrained in how we do business and who we are as an organisation. I know it sounds like the party line but I really truly do see the difference. Now, if something’s not right we fix it’, he said.
A major part of Chief Petty Officer Rosendale’s job is engaging with Indigenous communities throughout Australia to help enhance understanding, and improve Indigenous recruitment.
‘It’s about dispelling the stereotypes either organisation may see of each other. We need to bring them together and educate each other, ultimately making the Navy an employer of choice.’
He said the community leaders he speaks to are very positive about a future friendship with Navy.
‘They understand that when we say we’ll look after their young people we mean it.
‘The young sailors and officers are coming back to their communities as positive role models for other young people, showing them they can be a successful Australian and Indigenous at the same time. They don’t have to give up their cultural heritage to be successful.’