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RAAF Officer's didgeridoo gift strengthening cultural bonds between Australia and Maldives

Joseph Guenzler -

A didgeridoo brought to Maldives during Indo-Pacific Endeavour (IPE) engagement will stay in the country as a gift for the Australian High Commission in Malé.

At a reception celebrating 50 years of diplomatic ties between Australia and Maldives, Flight Lieutenant James Evans, the Royal Australian Air Force Indigenous Liaison Officer, presented the didgeridoo.

He played alongside the rhythmic beats of the Maldivian Bodu Beru drum, accompanied by the musical ensembles of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).

Flight Lieutenant Evans, a proud Wiradjuri man stationed at RAAF Base Wagga, expressed his privilege in representing both his Indigenous culture and the Australian Defence Force (ADF) during the Indo-Pacific Endeavour (IPE) engagement in Maldives.

"Wherever I go with the didgeridoo people are always drawn to that unique blend of sound and vibration so it's a chance to showcase my culture while representing Defence," he said.

"To play for a new audience in Maldives while marking 50 years of relations between our two countries was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Gifting the instrument to the recently established Australian High Commission holds additional significance for Flight Lieutenant Evans, as it pays homage to his Wiradjuri heritage in central New South Wales.

Commissioning Wiradjuri Elder Uncle Mick Lyons for the task, Flight Lieutenant Evans ensured the didgeridoo was meticulously crafted by hand at Lyons' residence in the New South Wales town of Narrandera.

Hailing from the Wagga Wagga region, Flight Lieutenant Evans, a former accomplished rugby league player, represented the state schoolboy team during his time at Mount Austin High School.

On weekends, he showcased his skills playing for the Wagga Magpies.

Initially serving as an airfield defence guard nearly a decade ago, Flight Lieutenant Evans transitioned to the role of a personnel capability officer in 2020.

His proficiency in playing the didgeridoo traces back to his childhood, where he accompanied his uncle while busking on the main street of Wagga.

"Even as a five-year-old I could see the effect that the didgeridoo had on people so I was lucky enough to learn it from my uncle at a young age and I've been practising it ever since," he said.

Flight Lieutenant Evans is a regular performer at graduation ceremonies held at RAAF Base Wagga.

He was among the three didgeridoo players—representing the Navy, Army, and Air Force—who graced the official opening of the Australian embassy in Washington DC in November 2023.

IPE will return to Maldives later in 2024 and follows the success of the inaugural visit in 2022.

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