13 February 2024
A didgeridoo brought to Maldives as part of Indo-Pacific Endeavour (IPE) engagement activities will remain in the country as a gift to the Australian High Commission in Malé.
Royal Australian Air Force Indigenous Liaison Officer Flight Lieutenant James Evans showcased the instrument at a reception to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations between Australia and Maldives.
He played along to the beat of another traditional instrument, the Maldivian Bodu Beru drum, supported by the bands of RAAF and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).
Flight Lieutenant Evans, a proud Wiradjuri man based at RAAF Base Wagga, said he felt privileged to be able to represent both his Indigenous culture and the ADF during the 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.”
Flight Lieutenant Evans said gifting the instrument to the Australian High Commission, which was established last year, also honoured his Wiradjuri heritage in central New South Wales.
He commissioned Wiradjuri Elder Uncle Mick Lyons to craft the didgeridoo, which was hand-made from Lyons' home in the NSW town of Narrandera.
Flight Lieutenant Evans grew up in the area around Wagga Wagga and was a handy rugby league player, representing the state schoolboy team while at Mount Austin High School and playing for the Wagga Magpies on weekends.
Originally joining the Air Force as an airfield defence guard almost a decade ago, he became a personnel capability officer in 2020.
As for his didgeridoo playing, that goes back to when he was a child accompanying his uncle busking in 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,” Flight Lieutenant Evans said.
He often plays the instrument at graduation ceremonies at RAAF Base Wagga and was one of three didgeridoo players – one each from Navy, Army and Air Force – who performed at 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.