Last week Nova Peris OAM got the honour in becoming the sponsor of the Royal Australian Navy’s newly launched Ship – NUSHIP Arafura.

A major milestone for the Navy, NUSHIP Arafura is the first of the Navy’s new Offshore Patrol Vessels that will be primarily responsible for protecting Australia’s northern maritime borders.

Peris was invited to the ceremony in Osborne, South Australia, which was also attended by the Governor of South Australia, Premier of South Australia, Minister for Defence and the Chief of the Royal Australian Navy.

Peris named the ship Arafura after the sea, in significance with her cultural ties to the area.

“My clan groups are the Bunitj Clan of the Gagudju people, The Ulbuk Clan of the Amurdak people from Mt Borradaile and the Iwaitja Peoples of the Cobourg Peninsular, all of these clan groups are surrounded by the beautiful Arafura Sea,” she said.

“Collectively we refer to ourselves as Bininj, which means West Arnhem Aboriginal peoples who have lived around the Oenpelli regions of the NT for thousands of generations,

“The creator being for us Bininj people is that of the ancestral woman, Yingarna.

“Yingarna is the design you can see on my dress here today.”

Nova Peris and Vice Admiral Michael Noonan, Photo Supplied.

“Yingarna’s image is depicted in our Sacred Stone Country, and her story is that she emerged from the Arafura Sea before making her way inland, deep into the Northern Territory, forming landscapes, languages and our peoples as she went.

“Having this ancestral connection to the Arafura sea though Yingarna and now the NUSHIP Arafura I believe is fate.”

Traditionally ships would have sponsors to bestow good luck and protection over the vessel and all who sail on her.

Peris called upon her Bininj ancestors and Yingana “to watch over this magnificent Mother Ship and keep it and all who sail in her safe.”

“Particularly when she sails throughout the Arafura Sea, past my Sacred Country and through our Sacred Waters,” she said in her speech.

“I am beyond humbled to be chosen for this most important role and I sincerely thank Vice Admiral Michael Noonan, AO, Royal Australian Navy, along with the Federal Government of Australia for bestowing upon me, this most prestigious and admirable honour.”

At the ceremony, instead of using champagne, a bottle of water from the Arafura Sea was smashed on the bow to mark the launch of the vessel.

By Teisha Cloos