I never set out to be a role model or anything. But my
nieces and nephews are all watching me and saying ‘Look what Uncle
Dennis is doing'
That's something that Dennis' young nieces and nephews are all
aspiring to. Since enrolling with TAFE NSW's Tracks to Defence
program, the 22-year-old indigenous man has been blazing a trail of
leadership and achievement through his family that many members of the
younger generation are finding inspirational.
"I've always wanted to join the Defence Force," Dennis
said. "Mainly the Army because I consider it to be the superior
force. I'll be the first one out of my entire extended family to join
the Defence Force. I never set out to be a role model or anything. But
my nieces and nephews are all watching me and saying ‘Look what Uncle
Dennis is doing. Maybe I can do it too. Maybe I can do anything I put
my mind to.'"
Tracks to Defence is a five-day orientation program for indigenous
students who are interested in joining the armed services. It also
includes mentoring and support programs. Dennis' natural leadership
qualities were noticed very soon after he joined up and he was quickly
singled out as a mentor.
"Being a mentor gives you a whole new level of respect for the
teachers and other mentors," he said. "I think it's a lot
more draining than being a student. When you're a student it's all set
out for you. But when you're a mentor you have all these people
looking up to you."
Dennis already has a clear vision of what he'd like to do if and when
he makes it into the Army. "I'll be going in as a tank crewman
for the first four years. Then I'll decide if I want to make a career
of that or if I want to do a job change. But I'm hoping that after
four years I'll be able to be an Instructor down at Kapooka (near
Dennis isn't sure exactly where his leadership skills have come from,
but he does feel a sense of responsibility now that his younger family
members are all watching his journey. "Dad was a truck driver
before I was born," he said. "He didn't really encourage me
to do anything. The only thing I wasn't allowed to do was drive
trucks. So I decided that I'd go one better; I'd join the Army and
drive trucks for them."
Dennis himself is pretty self-effacing about all this unexpected
attention and admiration. "I'm not exactly the sharpest tool in
the shed but I'm not the bluntest one either," he said with a
laugh. "I'm the one that needs sharpening every now and then."