Thank you for your service — photo gallery

Thank you for your service — photo gallery

This photographic exhibition was on display at Sydney's Anzac Memorial, Hyde Park, in the lead-up to Anzac Day 2019. 

The remarkable photographs, taken by one of Australia's most respected photo-journalists Alex Ellinghausen, are of more than 40 men and women who serve or have served in defence of Australia and their families.

This exhibition is a reminder that as a nation we should be immensely grateful for what our current and former ADF personnel have done and are doing, and the sacrifices made by their families.

It highlights why it is important to acknowledge their service, which can be as simple as saying, 'Thank you for your service.'

Able Seaman Brenton Knight, Seaman Paige Willoby – Royal Australian Navy

Able Seaman Brenton Knight, Seaman Paige Willoby – Royal Australian Navy

One serviceman and one servicewoman, in Royal Australian Navy uniform, posing in front of a naval war ship.

Able Seaman Brenton Knight

Able Seaman Brenton Knight [pictured left] has been in the Navy for two years and is a combat systems operator on board HMAS Adelaide – an Amphibious Assault Ship.

He enlisted straight out of high school and says he was always interested in joining the Navy.

‘I played the Last Post for the Coffs Harbour RSL for four years prior to joining and that gave me a very good opportunity to speak to veterans to get to know them, get to know their stories and it really kept motivating me [to] follow in their footsteps.’

Able Seaman Knight says the highlight of his service so far has been travelling overseas for the first time to Fiji and Tonga on Operation Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2018.

‘That was amazing being able to go to the schools and play touch football with the young kids over there. It was really good fun. And rebuild women’s shelters and all those humanitarian aid events that we undertook. It was a really rewarding experience and made you realise why you joined up.’

He says it means a lot to be able to serve his country.

‘Just knowing that you’re making a difference out there and helping others in times of need. Especially on this platform, HMAS Adelaide, being a humanitarian aid and disaster relief vessel. It really gives you that same sense of pride that they would have felt 100 years ago in Gallipoli.’

Able Seaman Knight says he appreciates people saying “thank you for your service.”

‘It does give you those warm and fuzzies to know that people respect what we do. But then again we’re doing what we do because we want to do it and we want to serve the country and make the people back home safe.’
Seaman Paige Willoby [pictured right] joined the Navy two years ago because she wanted to experience ‘something different, and to travel the world.’

Seaman Paige Willoby

Seaman Paige Willoby [pictured right] joined the Navy two years ago because she wanted to experience ‘something different, and to travel the world.’

She is posted to HMAS Adelaide and is serving in Communication Information Systems.

‘So we do a lot of bridge stuff, so flags, flashing light. And then work in communications, like radios and then IT on the ship as well,’ she explains.

Seaman Willoby’s brother is in the Navy as well and he encouraged her to join.

According to Seaman Willoby, she was looking for something that was going to put her out of her comfort zone and the past two years have been ‘pretty good.’

Seaman Willoby is heading out to sea this year for her fourth trip.

‘We went up to Papua New Guinea last year to do [Operation] APEC ASSIST and then I went to Townsville at the start of the year as well,’ she says.

For Seaman Willoby, her career highlights so far are being out of category school where she trained, and being on a ship.

‘This is my first ship posting – I came straight from IT training to here,’ she says.

For Seaman Willoby being part of the Australian Defence Force is about ‘knowing that I’m serving my country.’

Public recognition is also important. She says people have come up to her and said ‘thank you for your service.’

‘We were at [Navy base HMAS] Cerberus at cat school and were doing Legacy Day Shake Tin. It felt good to know that people acknowledge what you do,’ she says.

Able Seaman Joel Ryder, Warrant Officer Sean Ellerton, Petty Officer Jessica Buley – Royal Australian Navy

Able Seaman Joel Ryder, Warrant Officer Sean Ellerton, Petty Officer Jessica Buley – Royal Australian Navy

Two men and one woman, from the Royal Australian Navy, standing in front of a naval war ship.

Able Seaman Joel Ryder

Able Seaman Joel Ryder [pictured below] is an electronics technician and joined the Navy straight out of school.

‘I was just looking for a solid career where I got paid well and got a trade out of it and where I’d also get to travel,’ he says. ‘I’ve seen quite a few places in Australia and overseas.’

He is currently the Underwater Sensors Technician on board HMAS Hobart – a guided-missile destroyer.

‘I do all the planned maintenance and corrective maintenance for the underwater sensors onboard, so mainly sonar but there’s a few other systems,’ he says.

Able Seaman Ryder says his grandfather served in the Army in the Second World War. The highlight of his military career so far was being aboard the Hobart when she went to the United States last year.

‘We were doing some exercises with the US Navy and we were testing our combat system.’

He says he doesn’t normally wear his uniform in public but on Anzac Day some people thanked him for his service.

‘It makes me feel really proud and makes me feel like I’m appreciated for serving,’ he says.

He says he’d like to see more people say “thank you for your service.”

‘It would make you feel really good about yourself going to work every day if people were like that.’

A young, bearded man from the Royal Australian Navy, standing next to trees, with a waterfront behind him.

Warrant Officer Sean Ellerton

Sean Ellerton [pictured centre] is the Command Warrant Officer (the most senior non-commissioned officer) on HMAS Hobart.

His duties are varied.

‘I represent the views, concerns and opinions of all personnel to the Commanding Officer (CO), and provide the CO with advice, feedback and guidance to the state of welfare and morale. I am the senior equity adviser on-board and coordinate all honours and awards ensuring our people are recognised,’ he says.

He began his Navy career more than 30 years ago as a cook, enlisting because his father and two uncles were in the Royal Navy. ‘I saw what my father was doing and [listened to his] stories and liked every minute of it.’

Like many people in the Navy, the main low has been the long absences from his family. But there have been many highs. He’s enjoyed working at the Navy’s various training schools and most recently taking the Hobart to the United States for missile tests.

Warrant Officer Ellerton is proud of his service and appreciates people thanking him.

‘Last Anzac Day, I was walking back from the parade and quite a few people on the street came up and thanked me. And while we were in the US, we had US civilians coming up and thanking us. Not that we’re after the acknowledgement. But it does give you a little bit more of a buzz.’

Petty Officer Jessica Buley

Petty Officer Jessica Buley [pictured right] has served in the Navy for 13 years and is the Communication and Information Systems (CIS) Manager on board HMAS Hobart.

‘I manage the operation, maintenance and planning for all communications on board,’ she says.

She joined the Navy in her 20s and has a family history of service in the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

‘My grandfather was [in the] Army. I’ve got a warrant officer uncle who’s [in the] Navy and my sister’s [in the] Navy as well,’ she says.

Petty Officer Buley has spent the majority of her career in Cairns on board hydrographic survey ships and patrol boats.

‘But my highlight would be commissioning Hobart. Coming back to Major Fleet Units and introducing Navy’s newest capability.

‘The hardest part for me is to manage my work-life balance and being able to spend time with my seven-year-old who lives in Brisbane.’

Petty Officer Buley says she is very proud to serve in the RAN and tries to be a role model for women.

‘A lot of females will get married and once they start having children, they’ll leave. And I think I’m just trying to show them that we can do both.’

On people saying “thank you for your service” she says she always thought that kind of attitude was bigger in the United States.

‘But I’ve noticed it a lot more recently in Australia. Obviously, you only get noticed when you’re in uniform but it’s quite a nice and proud moment to be thanked like that.’

She says it doesn’t only happen on Anzac Day.

‘Even just going to the post office. If you’re wearing a uniform, people will stop and say “thanks”.’

She says childcares and schools often recognise the role of the ADF too.

‘They’ll generally ask me to come in in uniform and talk to the kids. That’s pretty cool.’

Able Seaman Keeley Hall, Royal Australian Navy

Able Seaman Keeley Hall, Royal Australian Navy

A woman in Royal Australian Navy uniform standing and holding an automatic gun with the ocean behind her.

Able Seaman Keeley Hall is a Boatswain’s Mate at HMAS Coonawarra – the Royal Australian Navy base in Darwin and one of the home ports of the Navy’s fleet of Armidale Class patrol boats (ACPB).

Able Seaman Hall has served on ACPB HMAS Pirie and is about to join another ACPB, HMAS Larrakia.

Able Seaman Hall went straight to university after Year 12, but soon felt the need for a change of pace.

‘I just wanted to go out and explore the world and travel and make a living out of it,’ she says. ‘The Navy was that option for me.

‘Life in the Navy is certainly different. In civilian life, you don’t see people jumping in a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat, driving at high speeds and disembarking onto a foreign vessel.’

She has experienced no issues with being a woman in the Navy. ‘We all get paid the same and there are no jobs that men can do and women can’t do.’

Able Seaman Hall is proud to serve in the Australian Defence Force and to continue the legacy of the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have defended Australia in the past.

‘Going to the shops in my uniform or walking the streets handing out poppies for Anzac Day, a lot of people do come up and say “thanks for your service”. It feels pretty good.

‘Serving means not putting yourself first and working as a team. It also means sharing the one goal to protect Australia and allowing your family and friends to continue living in such a lovely country that’s protected by the three forces.’

Able Seaman Leroy Toomey, Royal Australian Navy

Able Seaman Leroy Toomey, Royal Australian Navy

The face of a bearded man wearing sunglasses.

Able Seaman Leroy Toomey serves on HMAS Armidale – sailing out of the Navy base in Darwin, the home port of the Navy’s fleet of patrol boats.

‘I grew up in Dubbo NSW and once I finished my training at Cerberus I was posted to Port Services Coonawarra, and then was offered a posting on HMAS Armidale,’ he says.

Able Seaman Toomey is proud to serve in the Navy and to continue the legacy of the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have defended Australia in the past.

‘I am a proud Wiradjuri Aboriginal man and I am very proud to serve in the Navy,’ he says.

‘Family is very important to me and, being so far away from home, my friends and shipmates give me great support.

‘Serving is important to me as it means protecting Australia and our way of life.’

Aircraftwoman Kylie Ahern, Royal Australian Air Force

Aircraftwoman Kylie Ahern, Royal Australian Air Force

Close-up of a woman in firefighting uniform holding an axe.

Aircraftwoman Kylie Ahern serves as a firefighter with 23 Squadron at RAAF Base Amberley near Brisbane.

She completed the basic course at the end of last year.

‘So I’m very new, still learning everything,’ she says.

The mother of two joined the Air Force for job security and loves that she is not stuck in an office all day.

‘I love that it’s outside. It’s fun. I’m not stuck behind a computer anywhere. There’s always something happening. It’s pretty cool.’

She says her current role allows for a reasonable work-life balance.

‘Our roster here is really flexible. I’m four [days] on, four off at the moment. It gives me heaps of time to go home and do stuff. You’re not only limited to your weekend days.’

With a partner formerly in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) as well, Aircraftwoman Ahern says they have moved around a lot, including to Darwin, Wodonga and Townsville.

She says moving can be stressful.

‘But [the ADF] are pretty helpful with it. If you need time or help with anything, you can call up and they’ll help you out.’

Aircraftwoman Ahern says women are well represented in her unit.

‘It’s about a 50/50 ratio. So it’s fairly equal across the board.'

A woman in firefighting uniform holding an axe with an airfield fire truck behind her.

Andrew Craig, Royal Australian Navy veteran

Andrew Craig, Royal Australian Navy veteran

An elderly male veteran standing next to framed military and family photo-portraits from the past.

Andrew Craig graduated from the Royal Australian Naval College 60 years ago this year. Shortly afterwards he continued his training at the Royal Naval College in London where he learnt to fly Tiger Moth biplanes.

In the late 1960s, he was deployed to the Indonesian Confrontation.

After serving on a destroyer and a minesweeper, he was asked to further his flying training with the US Navy in Florida. The Vietnam War was ramping up and the RAN was short of helicopter pilots.

In 1968, he was deployed to Vietnam and attached to No 9 Squadron with the RAAF.

At one point, his helicopter was shot down in the jungle.

‘We’re trundling along, minding our own business and some little man on the ground got lucky and shot one of our control rods out,’ he says. ‘So we fell out of the sky. We were lucky because we arrived on the ground and the aircraft was level [but] it got very broken up and we got a bit busted up as well.’

When he and his crew were winched out, he was medevacked to Australia with a broken back. When he recovered, he returned to Vietnam to complete his tour.

In the early 1970s, he flew Wessex helicopters off HMAS Melbourne before bringing a squadron of Sea Kings over from their factory in the UK. Following a promotion, he became a staff officer and was involved in the procurement of Seahawk helicopters. With the rank of captain, he then decided to leave the Navy and head up the newly formed Sikorsky Aircraft Australia.

‘Whether it was the right decision, I still am quite uncertain,’ he says, but it marked the beginning of a successful and varied civilian career.

Among other things, he was Queensland Commissioner in Los Angeles, then Agent-General for Queensland in London. He was Chair of the Queensland Advisory Committee for the Commemoration of the Anzac Centenary from 2012 and is now Vice-Chair of the Queensland Veterans’ Advisory Council and a Board member of Queensland Legacy.

‘I had no idea how massive a change [transition] was going to be, simply because you don’t think about that until you do it. I was extremely lucky because [Sikorsky] employed an awful lot of … military people. So its corporate culture was 99% military … So that was culturally quite an easy transition.’

Captain Marium Hamimi, Australian Army

Captain Marium Hamimi, Australian Army

Black and white portrait of a young woman.

Captain Marium Hamimi is a pharmacist in the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps.

She was born in the Pakistani city of Peshawar where her parents had taken refuge from nearby Afghanistan. When she was three, her family moved to Melbourne under a family reunification program. 

After school, she studied pharmacy and joined the Army in 2012.

‘I joined the Army to do something different,’ she says. ‘I knew that working in the Army would be very different to working in a civilian pharmacy setting.

‘I love what I do. I love being in the Army family and I love my job. It’s very diverse. I work with doctors, nurses, medics, health planners in all different settings, in remote Australia as well as overseas.

‘I have been really well supported personally and in my training and development. The Army has really enriched my life and I think it will continue to do so. There are lots of opportunities.’

Captain Hamimi has served in Iraq where she found being able to speak Arabic a real advantage. Some of the people she met there were surprised that an Afghan woman was in the Australian Army.

Now based at Robertson Barracks, just east of Darwin, she plans to remain in the Army.

‘I think I can make a unique contribution to the Australian Army given my background,’ she says. ‘I don’t think there are many Afghan women in the Army. 

‘In the Army, your background, your religion, doesn’t matter.’

Claire Kluge, Royal Australian Air Force veteran

Claire Kluge, Royal Australian Air Force veteran

Portrait of a woman in front of a dark background.

Claire Kluge joined the RAAF in 1995 as an electronics officer.

‘My dad was in the Royal Navy,’ she says. ‘He was an observer in the Fleet Air Arm. He had the best stories about aircraft and flying, and he told me Navy’s not a career for women, Air Force is a career for women. So if you’re going to join, join the Air Force,’ she says.

Ms Kluge started her career as an electronics officer. She left four years later.

‘I loved my time. It definitely cemented my values and set me up for my leadership style and definitely shaped who I am. I got out because I fell in love with a sergeant. Flight lieutenants weren’t supposed to marry sergeants,’ she says.

Ms Kluge joined a defence contractor called RLM, where she remained for two years. She then left for a non-defence-related job where she spent another two years. She then joined Boeing Defence Australia in 2002 and has been there ever since.

‘When I transitioned in 1998, I found it quite easy. That’s because I transitioned into a defence company that had embedded military people. Even though I was moving into industry, there were people sitting next to me in uniform. So it had a similar culture. That’s true in Boeing too. When I joined Boeing, it was about 75 per cent ex-military people. It’s different now.'

‘When I brief people on transitioning, I always say join a big defence company because you’ll find there are so many similarities, in terms of bureaucracy, of command and control, and recognising rank structure.’

Ms Kluge was a finalist in the Veteran Employee of the Year category of the 2019 Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Awards.

She is Regional Director for the Hunter, and is responsible for leading Boeing’s defence presence in the region and overseeing operations associated with community engagement, local industry collaboration, educational partnerships and employee planning.

Corporal Ajai Rai, Australian Army

Corporal Ajai Rai, Australian Army

Portrait of an Asian-Australian serviceman wearing an army hat with a dark background behind him.

Corporal Ajai Rai was born in Singapore where his father worked in the Singapore Gurkha Police Force.

He came to Australia in 2005 and completed a Bachelor of Accounting. He then worked in a superannuation firm before enlisting in the Army in 2009.

An administrative clerk in the Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps, he is based at Randwick Barracks in Sydney.

Among the highlights of his ten years in the Army have been his various postings to places like Wagga Wagga, Darwin and Sydney. But moving around so much has also been the downside.

‘Once you settle in one location you make new friends and then it takes a while before you get to know the places and the people,’ he says.

‘You know that you are doing something for the nation. Even if I may be in the admin side, I deal with matters that are important to [my colleagues].’

He is pleased by the growing recognition of serving personnel – something he hadn’t appreciated until he experienced it first-hand.

‘It’s good that people acknowledge us. A year or two ago, I was out with a friend selling Legacy badges in the street. People just came up to us to buy the badges and they’re acknowledging us at the same time.’

Corporal Hollie Cartwright, Royal Australian Air Force

Corporal Hollie Cartwright, Royal Australian Air Force

A young female member of the Royal Australian Air Force in uniform and wearing glasses.

Corporal Hollie Cartwright is a medic at RAAF Base Amberley near Brisbane.

Her role is wide-ranging.

‘As a medic, we have a very varied role,’ she says.

‘Within a hospital setting, we conduct primary health care, patient assessments, patient treatment and also Base emergency response, and ambulance and airfield emergency response.

‘At the moment, I’m posted to No 3 Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, meaning that daily tasks [include] making sure that our operational aeromedical evacuation kit is squared away. And then we conduct aeromedical evacuation missions within Australia and overseas – so bringing people back home who are injured or ill.’

Corporal Cartwright has been a medic in the RAAF for 10 years and says she loves her job.

‘The people are great and I enjoy the varied role that we have. Working within the hospital on base, doing clinical placements out in the civilian world – so civilian hospitals, civilian ambulance,’ she says.

‘I've [had the opportunity] to travel around the world and have worked with a lot of coalition forces – about 52 different countries.’

Corporal Samuel Menzies, Australian Army

Corporal Samuel Menzies, Australian Army

A male Australian Army officer driving and manning the gun of an ASLAV, an Australian light armoured vehicle.

Corporal Samuel Menzies serves in the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland Mounted Infantry) at Gallipoli Barracks in Enoggera, Brisbane. He commands an ASLAV, which is an eight-wheeled light armoured vehicle crewed by a commander, a driver and a gunner.

He joined the Army in 2012 when in his mid-twenties. He was working as a manager of a Red Rooster restaurant and wanted a career that was more exciting and rewarding.

‘I just wanted to try something completely different and challenge myself as well,’ he says.

‘The best part of the job is training my subordinates and seeing them succeed in not only the different aspects of their job but when they work together as part of a combined team.’

One of the highlights was working with the Queensland Police Service on the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. There is also the challenge of the work itself.

‘A lot of what we do involves a lot of very difficult training in very complex and dangerous environments,’ he says.

Corporal Yuhang Ding, Royal Australian Air Force

Corporal Yuhang Ding, Royal Australian Air Force

A male pilot standing inside a Royal Australian Air Force hanger.

Corporal Yuhang Ding serves as an avionics technician in 33 Squadron. He is based at RAAF Base Amberley near Brisbane and joined the Air Force ten and a half years ago.

He enlisted because his family has a history of serving in the military.

‘I am the third generation in the military,’ he says. ‘My dad was a pilot in the Chinese military so I obviously had an aviation tradition in my family. It’s what I always wanted to do.’ 

Corporal Ding finds working in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) challenging.

‘I enjoy coming to work. It’s a different challenge every day,’ he says.

‘Any working day is a different day with our job whether it’s troubleshooting or whether we are maintaining and getting aircraft ready for flight. I really enjoy the challenge and really feel fulfilled at the end of the day when we achieve our operation or exercise goals.’

In the future, Corporal Ding would like to be a Recruitment Officer.

‘I could share my personal story and hopefully attract more applicants to come into the ADF, especially people with different backgrounds,’ he says.

Damian Drain CSM, Australian Army veteran

Damian Drain CSM, Australian Army veteran

A middle-aged male veteran, wearing a business shirt and jacket, in front of a cloudy sky.

Damian Drain joined the Army Reserve in 1992 while studying civil engineering at university. In 1996, he transferred to the Regular Army where he was posted to the Royal Australian Engineers.

He spent most of his career in a variety of construction engineering support roles. He was deployed to East Timor as part of INTERFET (1999–2000) and to Iraq attached to the US Army in 2007.

In 2013, he went to South Sudan, attached to the United Nations. He was also posted to the Royal Military College – Duntroon and Army Headquarters in Canberra.

‘I joined the Army because I’ve always been fascinated with it,’ he says.

‘My father was in the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment in Vietnam.

'When I joined university, I got a taste for it in the Reserve. Then I thought I’d do it full-time. When I signed up I thought I’d only do it for a few years. I never thought I’d still be there 21 years later.’

In 2015, Mr Drain left the Army as a lieutenant colonel.

‘I decided to settle down for family reasons,’ he says. ‘Ever since, I’ve been working in Canberra for a company called GHD as a project manager engineer.

‘Transitioning isn’t easy for anyone,’ he says. But he started planning his transition 12 months ahead of time. By the time he left, he was psychologically ready and knew what he wanted to do.

‘GHD provided me with good mentors who helped me learn the business and helped me to grow. I still have those mentors. For me, I make sure any other guys and girls coming out of the military have someone they can turn to, to help that transition,’ he says.

Mr Drain was a finalist in the Veteran Employee of the Year category of the 2019 Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Awards.

His military skills and knowledge have helped GHD diversify its client base and the types of work it does for the Australian Defence Force. He led the GHD team providing technical advice for the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance program, guided GHD’s submission for Defence’s Navy Capability Infrastructure program and led scoping studies to support capacity-building initiatives in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Fiji.

Dianne Lawrie, Royal Australian Navy veteran

Dianne Lawrie, Royal Australian Navy veteran

A woman in front of a bush covered in yellow flowers.

Dianne Lawrie joined the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service in 1981, aged 17, shortly before transferring to the Royal Australian Navy. She was medically discharged in June 2016.

The most difficult time of her career was from 1994 when she was appointed a change agent to go to sea and raise awareness among male naval personnel that women would soon be going to sea.

‘When I joined, women didn’t train with weapons or go to sea,’ she says. ‘Instead we wore dresses and marched with a handbag. Ten years on and I was the only woman at sea among a ship of men. I did that on patrol boats, ships and on submarines, and bases.

‘After getting in trouble for altering my uniform with my first baby who I sadly lost at birth, I later trialled the first Navy maternity dress. It was such a proud moment and a career highlight.’

She has also deployed to Iraq and East Timor.

‘I couldn’t have done the deployments without my strong family support. When I think of my service and what I’ve done, I think of my family … of the sacrifices they’ve made.’

She feels guilty about being away from her daughter at important times in her childhood.

‘Her first day of school I was away at sea preparing for women serving in ships, and for her final school year I was in a war zone in Iraq,’ she says.

Her husband, an Australian Army veteran, stayed home to look after their daughter when Ms Lawrie went to the Middle East.

‘It was my husband who got me ready for Iraq, and my husband who raised my daughter in that final year of school. It’s the families who let us serve our country.’

The support of Ms Lawrie’s family has also been crucial since she left the Navy.

‘They have shown me that there is life after the forces, which I’m eternally grateful for. When I was told I was going to transition, I understood the decision but I was devastated because I enjoyed my work and I was proud of what I did.

‘When it comes to transition, I feel we have a long way to go – we need to do it better.’

However, she has no regrets. ‘It’s such an honourable thing to serve.’

A man and two women standing in the middle of a garden.

Don Milford, Royal Australian Navy veteran

Don Milford, Royal Australian Navy veteran

An elderly man wearing a shirt and tie standing on a lake shore. Orange sunset in the background.

Don Milford spent 28 years in the Navy, then six years in the Navy Reserve.

He joined when he was young and rose through the ranks to become a warrant officer. He was then commissioned as an officer.

Mr Milford served on various ships including the aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney on which he sailed to Vietnam.

He describes his career as ‘pretty amazing’, the highlight being a posting to the Philippines during a coup in the 1980s.

‘I enjoyed my 34 years,’ he says. ‘I think it’s something everybody should do if they’ve got the inclination. But they should do it young.’

After he left the Navy, Mr Milford spent 11 years working for Paspaley Pearls as a manager in their property company.

He then bought his own real estate company which he ran for the next six years.

He says that while he was in the Navy, people rarely acknowledged his service.

‘Now, it’s wonderful. Especially when you get young children coming up to you – maybe 10 or 12 years old – and their parents have either been in the service or they have been associated with the service. For them to say thank you for your service, it tugs the heart strings.’

Donald Kennedy, Merchant Navy veteran

Donald Kennedy, Merchant Navy veteran

Black and white portrait of an elderly veteran man wearing a suit and tie. War medals are displayed on his chest.

Donald Kennedy went to sea aged 16 in February 1944 on a Norwegian tanker. He later saw service in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans.

His ‘enlistment interview’ took two minutes. He began as an ordinary sailor but soon found himself doing a variety of roles, including steering the ship and manning an Oerlikon 20-millimetre anti-aircraft cannon.

‘The Norwegians called me Kanonkommander Kennedy,’ he laughs. ‘I fired it once at a plane over the Atlantic, and missed. Thank goodness I never killed anybody.’

After 14 months, he transferred to a US Army transport ship delivering supplies to New Guinea and the Philippines. The war ended when Mr Kennedy was in Shanghai.

Following discharge in June 1946, he went back to sea on Australian ships until late 1949. In 1950, Mr Kennedy took a permanent position in the NSW Attorney General and Justice Department, retiring as State Manager, Sherriff’s Office field staff. He later spent 16 years in the Army Reserve.

Mr Kennedy, now 92, is modest about his wartime service.

‘I don’t wear my medals in public. [People] get worked up on Anzac Day. They all come up and say, “oh, thank you for your service”. Well, I’m mildly embarrassed because I didn’t do a lot … I was a boy and, to be quite honest, late in ’44 things had quieted down a lot.’

Mr Kennedy is president of the Merchant Navy RSL Sub-branch and says that 33,000 Merchant Mariners died in the Atlantic alone, and more than 3,000 ships were sunk.

Flight Lieutenant Anna Lovatt, Royal Australian Air Force

Flight Lieutenant Anna Lovatt, Royal Australian Air Force

A female pilot in front of a military aeroplane.

Flight Lieutenant Anna Lovatt is a pilot with 33 Squadron. She flies the KC-30 – an aerial refuelling aircraft – and is based at RAAF Amberley, near Brisbane.

Flight Lieutenant Lovatt was born in New Zealand but in 1998 went to the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, much to her parents’ dismay. Joining the Air Force had been a dream since her father took her to an airshow when she was ten.

She was a navigator in the F-111 before flying King Airs (twin turboprop aircraft) when attached to No 32 Squadron at RAAF Base East Sale. She also spent a year as aide-de-camp to the Chief of the Defence Force in Canberra. A co-pilot on the KC-30, she is working towards attaining her captaincy of the aircraft.

She has been deployed to Iraq.

‘It was great because we were doing something interesting, something worthwhile. It put a different perspective on it when you walked on the aircraft and you saw your grab bag [for when] something goes wrong. We don’t fly around with that day to day,’ she says.

‘The best part of the job is probably the variety of people we work with and the interesting things we get to do. So the flying is interesting and there’s variety to it. I’m working with a great team of people. Doing this and juggling my kids is perfect.’

A female pilot inside the cockpit of an aeroplane.

Flight Lieutenant Daniel Myers, Royal Australian Air Force

Flight Lieutenant Daniel Myers, Royal Australian Air Force

A young male pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force.

Flight Lieutenant Daniel Myers is an electrical engineer at RAAF Base Amberley, near Brisbane.

‘I support No 1 Squadron and No 6 Squadron engineering and maintenance tasks and improvement initiatives,’ he says. ‘I also manage the 82 Wing workshops for the ground support equipment section and the non-destructive testing section and maintenance control section,’ he says.

Raised in Canberra, he joined the Air Force because he wanted to do something different and challenging.

‘I was also interested in engineering in general and I also wanted to live and work outside Canberra a bit and explore,’ he says. ‘So I guess the RAAF ticked all those boxes.’

Flight Lieutenant Daniel Myers met his wife at the Australian Defence Force Academy where she was also studying engineering. They married in 2013, a week after they graduated. They were then both posted to Amberley. He became No 1 Squadron’s Avionics Maintenance Officer, which involved commanding more than 50 technicians. With many senior officers being deployed to the Middle East Region in 2014, he then became the Flight Line Maintenance Officer. This remains one of his dream jobs.

‘The job meant making sure the aircraft were ready to go flying – making sure aircrew had the right jets at the right time and in the right configuration. It was very high tempo but by the far most rewarding experience I’ve had.’

An extremely busy job, it coincided with the arrival of the couple’s daughter.

‘My wife had a year off and took the primary care role. I was going away frequently on exercises around Australia and internationally for three to five weeks at a time. My wife supported me and our family through all of that, for which I am very grateful’ he says.

The favourite part of his job is the challenge.

‘No day has been the same and I’ve got to go to different places and do different things and work with many different people. So it’s the diverse people, the diverse tasks and diverse environments that I’ve got to work in.’

In 2017, he faced his biggest challenge, deploying to the Middle East Region as part of Air Task Group 630.1.1 Strike in the role of the Senior Engineering Officer. Shortly after his return to Australia, Daniel, his wife and daughter welcomed the arrival of their son.

Flight Lieutenant Tjapukai Shaw, Royal Australian Air Force

Flight Lieutenant Tjapukai Shaw, Royal Australian Air Force

A young male pilot in front of a military aeroplane.

Flight Lieutenant Tjapukai Shaw has been in the RAAF for nine months and is currently attached to 22 Squadron. He is an Indigenous Liaison Officer based at RAAF Base Richmond.

Flight Lieutenant Shaw grew up in Dubbo, NSW and says it was never his intention to join the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

‘It was a complete go with the flow sort of thing,’ he says.

He says his graduation from Officer Training School was a career highlight. ‘Having my family there was definitely a high.’

Flight Lieutenant Shaw explains what it means to him to serve.

‘My culture, my heritage, we’ve been here for 80,000-plus years. To protect the country that my ancestors are from is a massive thing.

‘You know the generations immediately before me served this country before even being citizens. So, if they can do that without even being citizens of Australia, then I can continue that, being accepted as I am.’

He says he hasn’t been in the ADF long enough to experience people thanking him for his service but the work he is doing, especially in Indigenous communities, is making a difference.

‘The things that I’ve done have had an impact on people’s lives where they sort of think: “I never thought I’d see one of my own in uniform”. It’s a different experience but it’s still as an amazing feeling as being thanked.’

Flight Lieutenant Shaw thinks it is important that people say “thank you for your service”.

‘Before joining Defence, I never really thought about the ADF as much, especially in regards to thanking them for their service. But when you get that exposure and you see what people do, you understand it. People sacrifice a lot to work in the ADF so I think something as simple as saying “thank you” is a very important concept.’

Glenn Morcom, Royal Australian Air Force veteran

Glenn Morcom, Royal Australian Air Force veteran

A black and white photo portrait of a middle aged veteran.

Glenn Morcom served in the Royal Australian Air Force as a life support fitter from 1981 until 1993.

Today he is the managing director of Shade and Play, a Darwin manufacturer and seller of shade structures and playground equipment.

During his time in the RAAF, Mr Morcom was posted to Richmond, Adelaide, Darwin (multiple times), Malaysia and Tindal.

He says life in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) prepared him well for a civilian career.

‘Shade and Play is a company I set up based on some of the skills I learned in the services,’ he says. ‘Among them is being prompt and respectful – the very basics of life are really drilled into you. It does hold you in good stead as you move forward. You just do the right thing.’

He says members of the public saying ‘thank you for your service’ was not something he experienced during his time in the ADF but ‘you’d have to be pretty proud’.

‘A lot of different serving people really do the hard yards and I do believe they don’t get the full recognition that they deserve, especially the guys who are serving in war zones,’ he says.

Jason Johnson, Australian Army veteran

Jason Johnson, Australian Army veteran

A young male veteran wearing medals pinned to his shirt.

Jason Johnson served in the Australian Army from 2001 to 2014. He was an infantryman serving mostly with the 5th Battalion and the 5th/7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment in the Top End. He was deployed to East Timor 2002, Iraq in 2005 and 2007 and Afghanistan in 2010.

‘I joined when I was 19 years old and trying to work out what I wanted to do in the world. I saw the military as a great option for providing service to the nation and something a lot bigger than myself as an individual,’ he says.

‘A big highlight was my deployment to Afghanistan working in a patrol base and working very closely with the Afghan National Army and helping those guys to form their teams and learn from a world-class army on how to conduct operations to provide security and protection within their own valleys and regions. I found that an absolutely fascinating experience and learnt a lot from those gentlemen.’

Mr Johnson decided to leave the Army for family reasons.

‘I’d reached a point where I was at a crossroads – where it was a challenge balancing what was required of me from Army and what was required of me as a father and a husband.’

He found the transition to civilian life challenging.

‘It’s like you’ve left a family that you’ve always known,’ he says. ‘You feel a little lost. Trying to work out what you’re going to do and what gives you a sense of purpose.’

Mr Johnson says he was very fortunate to move straight into a good job, and found his time in the Army prepared him well for it.

‘It was the mining industry and I was given quite a lot of responsibility very quickly. But rather than allowing myself to become overwhelmed with it all, I just approached what I needed to do in the same way I would approach tackling something that was presented to me in the military – seeking out people that knew a lot more than me and learning from them very quickly,’ he says.

When people thank him for his service, he sometimes finds it disconcerting. But he often thanks other people who have served and welcomes the fact that more and more people are expressing their gratitude. He is proud of having served.

‘It means on a personal level I feel that I’ve done what I could do to support this wonderful nation.’

Jordan Ivone, Australian Army veteran

Jordan Ivone, Australian Army veteran

Portrait of a young veteran wearing a jacket.

Jordan Ivone served in the Australian Army for five and a half years before joining PwC Australia.

As an infantry soldier, he deployed to Afghanistan and left the Army as a lance corporal.

This year, Mr Ivone took out the Veteran Employee of the Year Award in the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Awards.

Mr Ivone says leaving the Army and making the transition to civilian life was hard.

‘I found it particularly difficult because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do in civilian life,’ he says.

‘It’s very hard to transition when you don’t know which direction to go in. I was fortunate to get quite a lot of help from not-for-profit organisations like Soldier On.’

Mr Ivone got a job at PwC in 2016 via an internship set up as a partnership between PwC and Soldier On to enable more veterans to get into professional services.

Since joining PwC, Mr Ivone has become a role model for other veterans, helping to integrate a further four Soldier On trainees into successful careers. He has blossomed as a consultant, is undertaking a university degree and has been promoted to Senior Associate.

A young man standing in a grass field.

Keith Campbell OAM, Royal Australian Air Force veteran

Keith Campbell OAM, Royal Australian Air Force veteran

Keith Campbell enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force in May 1942 at the age of 19. After training in Australia and Canada, he was posted to the United Kingdom where he served as a Bomb Aimer with No 466 Squadron, RAAF in Yorkshire.

On 25 July 1944, on his 33rd operation, Keith Mr Campbell’s bomber was involved in a mid-air collision with another aircraft just outside of Stuttgart.

‘Fortunately I was wearing a parachute at the time,’ he says. ‘I always used to wear it over the target. And I was blown out of the aircraft and I came to at about 1,000 feet. There was just silk above me. When I hit the ground, fortunately I wasn’t injured and set course for the nearest place – Switzerland. I realised I had no hope of getting there by walking but it was the only way to get there.’

Mr Campbell managed to remain at large for three days, but was captured and spent the remaining ten months of the war as a Prisoner of War, mostly in Poland.

Of his time in Bomber Command, Mr Campbell remembers the way everyone pulled together to keep the aircraft flying.

Mr Campbell was discharged in Australia in November 1945 with the rank of warrant officer.

‘It was an adventure which turned out to be a very serious job … I did the job hundreds of other young Australians did at the time. I was fortunate enough to survive. The casualty rate was very high.’

After the war he returned to his pre-war occupation as a draughtsman, before buying a hotel and later going into the catering business.

Mr Campbell has been active in various associations, including the RSL, the RAAF Association and the Bomber Command Association, and he worked for many years as a veterans’ advocate.

In 2009, Mr Campbell was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to veterans, particularly through the Bomber Command Association in Australia, and to the community.

Kerri-Ann Welch, Australian Army veteran

Kerri-Ann Welch, Australian Army veteran

A young female veteran, sitting on a chair, wearing a black top and black pants.

Kerri-Ann Welch served as a Nursing Officer in the Nursing Corps of the Australian Army.

She says the highlight of her five years in the Army was the time she spent working with the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR) in Brisbane.

‘The year at 6RAR, as hard as it was and as emotional as it was, working with the families of people who’d been killed and also their friends and co-workers, I felt like I was making a positive impact on those people and I felt like I was really able to do my job,’ she says.

Ms Welch left the Army as a captain and smoothly transitioned back into civilian life.

‘I feel that I was quite lucky.

'I made the decision at the beginning of 2011 and gave myself as much time as I needed to find a job that met all the criteria I wanted,’ she says. ‘I was leaving on my terms. I think that made a big difference.’

Ms Welch says she appreciates people thanking her for her service.

‘It hasn't hasn’t happened to me in Australia but with my research, I spend a bit of time over in the United States, mostly at military-based conferences. So when you get speaking to people over there and they find out you have been in the military, it’s almost second nature for them to say “thank you for your service” and it’s not patronising, it’s not condescending. It’s quite heartfelt, so it is a nice feeling.’

Ms Welch says she feels lucky to have been able to serve.

‘There are a lot of hurdles you need to jump to be able to undertake military service. I was in a position in my life where I had the necessary skills and education and was able to utilise them in a role that made a difference to a lot of people and the safety of the nation. I think I was lucky to be able to do that.’

Leading Aircraftwoman Kimberley de Haan, Royal Australian Air Force

Leading Aircraftwoman Kimberley de Haan, Royal Australian Air Force

Portrait of a young Australian servicewoman with her loyal dog.

Leading Aircraftwoman Kimberley de Haan is based at RAAF Base Richmond as a Military Working Dog Handler.

Before enlisting she worked as a waitress and swim coach.

‘I just wanted a job that had more meaning; a job where I could be outside all the time and a job that I could be proud of,’ she says.

Leading Aircraftwoman de Haan says being in a new section has provided her with many opportunities.

‘It was a young section when I first arrived so I had been given a lot of responsibility at an early stage, and have since grown from there. I’ve already experienced a six and a half month deployment overseas and I’ve spent the last few weeks at the Avalon Air Show. You get a lot of opportunities to go places.’

She says her deployment in the United Arab Emirates was an invaluable learning experience.

‘You meet a lot of new people, you get to work alongside coalition forces and get given many opportunities to learn new skills and better your trade, as well as getting a better understanding of the job and the role.’

Leading Aircraftwoman de Haan says she is honoured to be serving in the Australian Defence Force.

‘It makes me feel proud and my family proud. And of course, it’s a privilege to work for Defence.’

She says it’s humbling when people say “thank you for your service”.

‘It feels good to be recognised and makes your job feel that little bit more important.’

Leading Seaman Tanya Roberts, Royal Australian Navy

Leading Seaman Tanya Roberts, Royal Australian Navy

A woman in Royal Australian Navy uniform, leaning against a wall.

Leading Seaman Tanya Roberts joined the Navy when she was 17, straight out of school.

She works in Maritime Logistics Personnel.

‘I look after the Navy Reserves for the Northern Territory area. A lot of Reservists come Australia-wide to fill the op relief postings on boats up here in Darwin so [I make] sure that they are ready in all regards to be posted to a boat and fill that position,’ she says.

She says people regularly come up to her and say “thank you for your service.”

‘It’s happened a lot of times, especially around Anzac Day.

‘It does make you think because you feel like you’re just doing your job. And we’re not thanking other people for just doing their job.

‘But when you look at the situations, you really do understand why they are thanking us because you know Australia is such a good place to live and that’s one of the reasons why we can live so freely.’

Leading Seaman Roberts says she feels pride ‘not for just being in the Defence Force but for each individual Service.’

‘As soon as you put the uniform on, you stand taller and are proud to be there.’

Lieutenant Colonel Philippa Weiland CSC, Australian Army

Lieutenant Colonel Philippa Weiland CSC, Australian Army

The face of an Australian Army servicewoman shown from 3 different angles.

Lieutenant Colonel Philippa Weiland is a senior psychologist and the Commanding Officer of 1 Psych Unit at Randwick Barracks in Sydney. She joined the Army in 2003.

‘I’m an Army brat, which did influence me joining,’ she says. ‘I’m fourth generation – so growing up in that environment, I saw the good and bad sides of family members supporting military members.

‘I was particularly interested in joining as a psychologist. All I wanted to do is look into what kind of mental health support we provide serving members, [which] helps the families of members as well.’

She describes her deployments to the Solomons, Iraq and Afghanistan as among the highlights of her career.

‘[2010] was a very unfortunate year [in Afghanistan] where we had a lot of deaths of soldiers and I was involved in doing the critical incident response to them. And, I think, weirdly why I say it’s a positive is it was seeing just how well junior leadership supported their soldiers and how resilient everyone was.’

In the 16 years since she joined, she’s seen a huge improvement in the way the Army deals with mental health.

‘We’ve still got issues with stigma but we’re getting better and senior leadership’s getting better about it and seeing it as a major issue we need to respond to. People are getting help much earlier as well.’

She’s pleasantly surprised by how she is treated when wearing her uniform and medals on Anzac Day.

‘I didn’t think Australians were that patriotic but I’ve been thanked for my service. Not only thanked but dragged up to the bar in front of everyone to say “get her a drink” and that’s from much younger people.’

Major Andrew Kopada, Australian Army

Major Andrew Kopada, Australian Army

Portrait of a Papua New Guinean-Australian serviceman wearing an Australian Army hat.

Then a member of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF), Andrew Kopada graduated from the Royal Military College – Duntroon 25 years ago as part of the Defence Cooperation Program.

Fourteen years ago, he transferred from the PNGDF to the Australian Army. Now a major, he serves with the North-West Mobile Force (NORFORCE), and is based at Larrakeyah Barracks in Darwin.

Major Kopada decided to move to Australia because he felt he would get better job satisfaction with the Australian Defence Force (ADF). He also felt a keen connection to Australia as it is the birthplace of his wife. It also offers a good standard of living to raise his young family.

‘When I was back in PNG, it was my loyalty to PNG and working for the protection of the whole of PNG, which motivated me to serve within the PNGDF.

‘But now my loyalty is to Australia. I really enjoy serving Australia. I would volunteer any time to serve on operations to defend Australia.’

One of the highlights of Major Kopada’s career so far was being deployed to the Solomon Islands, which involved preparing Reservists for operations there.

‘Going on operations within the ADF is highly competitive,’ he says. ‘People are selected on their merits and experience, so to pick up an opportunity to go on operations early in my career as an operations officer, was a career highlight for me.’

A Papua New Guinean-Australian serviceman in Australian Army uniform along with a North-West Mobile Force (NORFORCE) military flag.

Mick Caldwell, Australian Army veteran

Mick Caldwell, Australian Army veteran

An elderly veteran man standing in a cemetery with medals on his chest. There is an obelisk war memorial monument in the background.

Mick Caldwell served in the Australian Army for 20 years as a medic before leaving in 2000 and continuing to serve in the Reserves.

During his time in the Army, Mr Caldwell served overseas in various peacekeeping missions, including the Solomon Islands and East Timor. In 1991, he was deployed to Iraq on Operation Habitat, under Provide Comfort – a US mission.

‘We operated in northern Iraq and basically helped Kurdish people who’d fled into Iran. They were in a pretty bad way,’ he says. ‘We went there as a medical team to help them out. Again that was a fantastic experience. We did some great work.’

Mr Caldwell says of his time in the Army, ‘It’s an old cliché but you serve your country, do yourself proud, it builds you as a person.

‘I got out of the Army 20 years ago and still give back to the community as much as I can. I joined the RSL in 1990 and it gives you that sense of community and trying to help people and looking after your fellow soldiers who ultimately look after Australia and keep us all safe.’

After leaving the Army as a warrant officer, Mr Caldwell served nine years in the Australian Federal Police. He currently works as director of security for the Northern Territory Parliament.

‘At the moment, I’m seconded to the Arafura Games, which is a huge regional sporting event set off the Arafura Sea.’

Mr Caldwell says his military experience prepared him well for a civilian career.

‘My military experience helps me keep calm. You get an understanding of what’s important and what’s urgent and what real priorities are.’

An elderly veteran man in front of an Anzac memorial wall, with the words "Lest we forget."

Musician Paula Trevitt, Australian Army Reservist

Musician Paula Trevitt, Australian Army Reservist

A female Australian Army Reservist playing a saxophone at the entryway to a big building.

Paula Trevitt is a musician in the 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers (1/15 RNSWL).

The 1/15 RNSWL is an Army Reserve Light Cavalry Regiment within the Royal Australian Armoured Corps located at Parramatta, NSW.

‘We’re a regimental band,’ she says. ‘I play predominantly baritone saxophone.’

Musician Trevitt says she has been involved in some interesting tasks over the 20 years she has been playing in the band.

‘Mardi Gras this year and last year was definitely a highlight. The football, mid-game entertainment – they’re always good fun,’ she says.

‘One of the best moments was actually walking out of our Regiment, playing one of my favourite marches, Radetsky. It was the first time we’d played that march on parade. It was the Regiment Birthday Parade. Stepping out the gates with the Regiment behind us was a real highlight for me. Our sound bounced down the street between the buildings – it sounded great.’

Musician Trevitt’s day job is a police officer. She says she enjoys serving in the Reserves.

‘It’s my hobby, which I just happen to get paid for. I think I’m so lucky to be able to do that. It’s completely different to my day job so just having the variation makes life really interesting,’ she says.

She says she often experiences people coming up to her and saying “thank you for your service”.

‘I just always say “thanks so much”. And then, think to myself: I’m a musician. I don’t feel like I’m serving the country, but people see the uniform and they do like to say thank you, so it’s nice.’

Musician Trevitt says people also thank her when she is working as a police officer.

‘Quite often we will be walking down the street and hear ‘keep safe today’ and that’s really appreciated.’

Petty Officer Jessica Buley, Royal Australian Navy

Petty Officer Jessica Buley, Royal Australian Navy

A young woman in Royal Australian Navy uniform posing in front of leadlight, stained glass windows.

Petty Officer Jessica Buley has served in the Navy for 13 years and is the Communication and Information Systems (CIS) Manager on board HMAS Hobart – a guided-missile destroyer.

‘I manage the operation, maintenance and planning for all communications on board,’ she says.

She joined the Navy in her 20s and has a family history of service in the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

‘My grandfather was [in the] Army. I’ve got a warrant officer uncle who’s [in the] Navy and my sister’s [in the] Navy as well,’ she says.

Petty Officer Buley has spent the majority of her career in Cairns on board hydrographic survey ships and patrol boats.

‘But my highlight would be commissioning Hobart. Coming back to Major Fleet Units and introducing Navy’s newest capability.

‘The hardest part for me is to manage my work-life balance and being able to spend time with my seven-year-old who lives in Brisbane.’

Petty Officer Buley says she is very proud to serve in the RAN and tries to be a role model for women.

‘A lot of females will get married and once they start having children, they’ll leave. And I think I’m just trying to show them that we can do both.’

On people saying “thank you for your service” she says she always thought that kind of attitude was bigger in the United States.

‘But I’ve noticed it a lot more recently in Australia. Obviously, you only get noticed when you’re in uniform but it’s quite a nice and proud moment to be thanked like that.’

She says it doesn’t only happen on Anzac Day.

‘Even just going to the post office. If you’re wearing a uniform, people will stop and say “thanks”.’

She says childcares and schools often recognise the role of the ADF too.

‘They’ll generally ask me to come in in uniform and talk to the kids. That’s pretty cool.’

Petty Officer Peter Gough, Royal Australian Navy

Petty Officer Peter Gough, Royal Australian Navy

A Royal Australian Navy serviceman in camoflage uniform sitting in a surgery room.

Petty Officer Peter Gough serves in the Navy and is currently the Regulator of the Larrakeyah Heath Centre in Darwin.

‘My background has been extensively diving medicine in the Sydney diving units,’ he says.

Petty Officer Gough grew up in Bowral, NSW and says he joined the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to see the world.

He says he enjoys the travel and the variety of different people he meets.

‘A lot of my extensive friends are sailors, soldiers or airmen.’

Petty Officer Gough says the ADF is like a family.

‘It’s a diverse group of people with the same common goals or common traits.

'You can always meet up with someone down the track and wherever the conversation finished years ago, it starts straight back up.’

Petty Officer Gough says people have come up to him and said “thank you for your service”.

‘It feels nice and [makes you feel] appreciated. But I think I’m just doing my job at the same time.’

He says what serving his country means to him is ‘volunteering your time, effort and discipline to contribute to the nation’s interest’.

Petty Officer Philip Lang, Royal Australian Navy

Petty Officer Philip Lang, Royal Australian Navy

Portrait of an older man with a small grey beard in navy uniform.

Petty Officer Philip Lang is a Marine Technician in the Navy.

He is currently the Hull Manager aboard HMAS Adelaide – an Amphibious Assault Ship. He maintains the ship’s services such as the sewage treatment plants, air conditioning and refrigeration units on board.

Petty Officer Lang will retire in October next year.

‘By the time I retire that’ll be 38 years of service,’ he says.

‘In my 38 years I’ve done one humanitarian deployment for Banda Aceh – the tsunami relief … and I’ve served in two Gulf wars – 1991 and 2003.’

During his career, he says the highlight has been serving on multiple platforms.

‘I’ve gone from HMAS Supply, which is the steam-driven fueller to all three DDGs, which are destroyers, to both the LPAs [Landing Platform Amphibious], then to HMAS Canberra and then now to HMAS Adelaide,’ he says.

The downside has been being away from family.

‘Probably one of the biggest challenges is being away from family for so long in key times. Having two kids and just missing half their growing-up cycle.’

Petty Officer Lang says he has been proud to serve in the Australian Defence Force.

‘I’ve seen a lot of changes. A lot of new things come into effect. New platforms coming into service.’

Private Claire Hirst, Australian Army

Private Claire Hirst, Australian Army

Portrait of a blurred face of a woman wearing Australian Army uniform, with a dark background behind her.

Private Claire Hirst currently serves as a Registry Clerk at Gallipoli Barracks in Brisbane.

Her role involves monitoring correspondence coming in and out of the unit and distributing it accordingly.

She joined the Army after completing high school.

‘This will be my second year,’ she says. ‘I joined [as part of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) Gap Year program] straight out of school.

‘I wanted to try something different. I thought I’d give it a crack and after twelve months of that, I signed on.’

Private Hirst says there have been a number of highlights in her Army career so far.

‘There are the people I’ve met. Being able to branch out. I came from small country town so [it’s good] to be able to say that I’ve lived in three different states in 12 months. Also, there are all the opportunities that have opened up to me that wouldn’t have been available to me if I hadn’t embarked on this journey.’

Private Hirst says the Australian public coming up to ADF personnel and saying “thank you for your service” means a lot.

‘It brings a great sense of pride that what the ADF is doing is being recognised and I’m part of it.’

Serving her country brings Private Hirst a great sense of accomplishment. She says it’s great ‘being able to see what I’ve achieved in such a short amount of time and being part of this organisation and this bigger picture and being part of one of those working cogs’.

Private Shayne Buckler, Australian Army

Private Shayne Buckler, Australian Army

The face of a male soldier in battle camouflage.

Private Shayne Buckler is a reconnaissance patrolman with the 8th/9th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.

He explains his role: ‘Recon will go out and we will gain information on the enemy and battlespace environment through the use of optics such as spotting scopes, Hornet drones and then from there we collect that data, the lay of the land, enemy composition and where they’re located. And with the information we get, we’re then able to assist infantry operations in doing their job.’

Private Buckler has been in the Army for five years and says curiosity was a key factor in why he signed up.

‘I was 21 and I just saw an ad and I thought why not give it a crack,’ he says. ‘I know that I’m not built for an office job. I love working with my hands. I love the physical side of it. So after talking to a few friends, that was it for me. I joined and I’ve never looked back.’

Private Buckler says the favourite part of his job is the people he meets.

‘The friends I’ve made through the Army are absolutely second to none,’ he says.

Private Buckler says it makes him feel proud when members of the community thank him for his service.

‘It gives you a real purpose. It gives you more purpose to put on that uniform in the morning and feel like you’re actually doing something for the community and being able to give back to them,’ he says.

A reconnaissance patrolman hidden in the bush wearing camouflage uniform and with gun ready.

Ray Carson, Australian Army veteran

Ray Carson, Australian Army veteran

A middle-aged, strongly built veteran man sitting in front of a campfire.

Ray Carson served in the Australian Army from 1987 to 1991. He was a sniper in 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment before being discharged on medical grounds.

He found transitioning to civilian life difficult.

‘They just said, “By the way, your time’s up, see you later”. So going from having the best job in the world to walking out was like a slap in the face,’ he says.

He also found it a shock going from a well-organised military environment to civilian life, which he still describes as chaos. As Mr Carson came to terms with his discharge, he worked in construction and as a bouncer in Townsville before training as a paramedic. From there he worked in mine rescue before going to Africa for six years where he worked as a paramedic and did close-protection bodyguard and anti-poaching work.

‘I remember [being] in the middle of the African bush and there’s eight people behind me, there’s a pride of lions in front of me and a herd of elephants walking past, and I asked myself how the beep did I end up here,’ he laughs.

He returned to Australia and after recuperating from a serious pushbike accident, set up an adventure company called Xperiences. Run on military lines, it provides various team-building and training experiences for the government, not-for-profit and corporate sectors.

‘This is its 12th year,’ he says. ‘My clients include Rio Tinto, Deloitte, Department of Defence … I’ve built the only adventure centre like this in Australia. I’m employing other veterans and they just walk in and understand the system – we understand each other.’

Mr Carson still wishes he was in the Army. He particularly misses the mateship, though he’s still friends with those he served with.

‘I’ve got mates I’ve had for over 30 years and I can ring them tomorrow and say I need something … it’s a network that works in so many ways.’

Rear Admiral Ian Crawford AO AM (Mil) RAN (Ret’d), Royal Australian Navy veteran

Rear Admiral Ian Crawford AO AM (Mil) RAN (Ret’d), Royal Australian Navy veteran

An elderly male veteran in a suit in front of the entry to his house.

Ian Crawford retired as a rear admiral, having served in the Navy for 40 years from 1949 until 1989. He is 87.

The many highlights of his career go back to its very beginning.

‘When I first joined the Navy I got everything I wanted,’ he says. ‘I’d always hankered to be in the Navy and I arrived at the Naval College and we learned seamanship, navigation, communications – all the things that I’d taken an interest in.’

Other highlights were simply being at sea, overseas postings to London, Paris and Washington, and his service in the Korean War.

‘The Korean War was spectacular as an 18-year-old midshipman and some of the great actions in the Korean War – the landing at Inchon, the evacuation of Chinnampo. When the Chinese came into the war [there were some] very traumatic and dramatic times.’

Rear Admiral Crawford sees service in the Australian Defence Force as an important part of Australia’s heritage.

‘It goes back to the First World War and the Second World War, when every family in Australia was touched by the war. It’s changed a bit since then but I was brought up in that culture where one has enormous respect for that heritage. I had an uncle who was at Gallipoli and was wounded on the Western Front,’ he says.

‘My father and another uncle were in New Guinea in the Second World War. I was in Korea, my younger brother was in Vietnam as a major and one of his sons was in Afghanistan. So there is a family heritage of being in the ADF.

‘I find it very moving [when acknowledged for his service], and especially when we march on Anzac Day and people cheer and have signs saying “Thank you”.’

An elderly male veteran with medals on his chest.

Sam Weston, Australian Army veteran

Sam Weston, Australian Army veteran

A young male veteran sitting on a chair in a cafe.

Sam Weston joined the Australian Army as a cook in 1998 and served until 2004.

He is now running the Mad Snake Café in Darwin.

Mr Weston served in East Timor and says it was tough.

‘At the time we probably downplayed it but looking back 20 years later there were some pretty hairy situations over there, particularly in ‘99 when I was over there,’ he says.

‘I was 19. I didn’t know any different. It was my first job so I suppose at the time I just accepted it was what you did but looking back now … [it was] lucky not too many of us got hurt, I mean mentally hurt … considering what could have happened over there, thank God, nothing too major happened to us,’ he says.

Mr Weston says he uses the skills he learnt in the Army in his post-service career.

‘They gave me the building blocks to run a café, they gave me the confidence, and I’m enjoying it,’ he says.

Mr Weston says he is very proud to have served in the Australian Defence Force.

‘I’m very proud. You’ve done something for your country, something to tell your kids about, you walk with a bit of pride, you puff your chest out a little bit more because you know you’ve done that. Again, it gave me the basic life skills that I need to do what I do today. I guess, it made me a man.’

Sergeant Lyn Farrier, Royal Australian Air Force

Sergeant Lyn Farrier, Royal Australian Air Force

A female Royal Australian Air Force officer sitting in a military vehicle.

Sergeant Lyn Farrier is a Ground Support Equipment Technical Supervisor based at RAAF Base Richmond on the outskirts of Sydney.

She joined the RAAF in 2008, transferring from the Royal Air Force in which she served for 13 years. She deployed with the RAF several times, to the Falkland Islands, Iraq and Afghanistan. Since joining the RAAF, she has been posted to RAAF Amberley in Brisbane, and to Darwin.

‘I can’t remember exactly how I got [interested in the military] but I joined the cadets when I was thirteen, then straight into the Reserves before I joined the military,’ she says.

‘It’s been part of my life longer than anything else. I just like to do something that is providing to the community and to people when you go overseas. I’ve done peacekeeping operations, I’ve done flood relief. I like the way you can help other people.’

What also appeals to her about life in the RAAF is the mateship.

‘I’ve met so many people from all over the world,’ she says. ‘I have so many good friends back in the UK and over here from the military. In a way it’s like one big family. Believe it or not, I actually enjoy going [on deployment]. But then that can be [a lowlight] because I’m a single mum with two kids.’

She likes it when people acknowledge her service on Anzac Day but also on those rare occasions when people see her in uniform on the street and thank her.

‘I feel proud. I have given a lot. I think people don’t understand – not just that I’ve given a lot, my kids have given up a lot. We do sacrifice a lot to do the job we do.’

Sergeant Paul Slaviero, Australian Army

Sergeant Paul Slaviero, Australian Army

An Australian Army serviceman. There is a dramatic cloudy sky in the background.

Sergeant Paul Slaviero serves in the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment as the Mortar Platoon Sergeant. He is based at Robertson Barracks in Darwin.

He says of his role, ‘I think what sort of drew me to it when I was actually trained to be a mortar man, was how to identify faults, because it’s quite technical. And that was what made me enjoy it and what still makes me enjoy it today.’

Sergeant Slaviero has deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. Additionally, during his time in the Army he says ‘I’ve done some international engagements, like training activities with the Indonesian and Malaysian armed forces, for instance.’

Sergeant Slaviero says serving his country in uniform is about ‘carrying on not only customs and traditions that we still uphold today but also it’s about giving back.’

‘Take recent events for example. Floods in Townsville for instance, even the cyclone clean-up here – that sort of thing is giving back. Giving back to communities is big for me and it means a lot to the guys I work with and who work under me and my boss as well. 

‘It’s good to see guys getting in and giving a good effort.’

Squadron Leader Ajitha Sugnanam, Royal Australian Air Force

Squadron Leader Ajitha Sugnanam, Royal Australian Air Force

A young woman in a air service uniform wearing a red cross badge on her left sleeve.

Squadron Leader Ajitha Sugnanam is a dentist but works mostly as a capability development officer in Headquarters Health Services Wing at RAAF Base Amberley, near Brisbane.

‘I come from a conservative Indian family and the Australian Defence Force (ADF) came to my university in my final year and showed me the opportunities that were available for me to improve leadership-wise and be exposed to lots of different things,’ she says. ‘That really interested me because I wanted to be more independent.

‘I’ve been here for well past my initial employment period because I love it. I absolutely got everything that I was hoping for and more.’

Squadron Leader Sugnanam has been in the ADF for nearly nine years. She has been posted to RAAF Bases Darwin, Tindal and most recently Williamtown where she was a senior dentist and operations officer for 2 Expeditionary Health Squadron.

‘The Air Force is currently sponsoring me to do my masters in oral surgery part-time and then the other couple of days I work for them in capability development which [involves] working on Air Force’s future health capability.’

She loves being in the RAAF.

‘I’m really positive about my career and it might just be because I’m happy to do anything. But I have also been exposed to so much along the way and one of the main highlights for me is if I was working in a private practice in dentistry, I wouldn’t be exposed to the people I have been,’ she says

‘Everyone I meet on a daily basis is passionate about doing something for the country and that’s really why they’ve joined so their mindset is very similar to mine. And you just wouldn’t make friends like that so easily [in civilian life].’

Tracey Goss, Royal Australian Air Force veteran

Tracey Goss, Royal Australian Air Force veteran

A middle-aged female veteran in a black and white, polka dot dress.

Tracey Goss joined the Air Force in 1998 as a pay clerk. She spent 24 years in the regular Air Force, serving in East Timor and the Middle East, before transferring to the Reserves in 2012 with the rank of flight sergeant. Her husband is in the Army.

She describes joining the Air Force as a natural progression.

‘It was in the blood,’ she says. ‘My father was in the Air Force. My mum was in before they were married and I’d grown up around defence. I was an Air Force cadet for years as a teenager.’ For her, the highlights were mentoring staff, and her various deployments.

However, she has found the transition to civilian life to be challenging. Her health prevents her working full-time, so she works part-time in the Air Force Reserve while she and her husband run a business making challenge coins (custom-made souvenir medallions).

She is proud of having served, and encourages Australians to recognise serving personnel to the same extent as in other countries, and notes the importance of providing employment for ex-serving personnel.

Troy Ward, Australian Army veteran

Troy Ward, Australian Army veteran

Troy and his wife, wearing singlets, with a dark background behind them.

Troy Ward joined the Australian Army in 1996 at the age of 17 and remained there for just over four and a half years. He was a gunner in what was then called the 4th Field Regiment at Lavarack Barracks in Townsville.

He developed an interest in the Army from the age of 14 when he joined the cadets at school.

‘Once I started doing that, being a soldier was all I ever wanted to do,’ he says.

He loved being in the Army and the variety of work he found himself doing.

‘You could be doing anything from one day to the next,’ he says. ‘This included not only training on barracks and out bush, but cleaning up after cyclones or looking for missing persons.’

Mr Ward left the Army soon after he was involved in a serious vehicle accident during training that left him with an acquired brain injury.

‘I had, at the time, a pretty good family group that got me work in the drilling industry so that was a big load off my shoulders.

‘Even though I had my accident I wouldn’t change it for the world. I was so proud to put that uniform on every day. It was my life. My daughter’s joining the Army as well, so I get to live it again through her a little bit.

‘The job isn’t just an everyday job. It’s not like there’s 20 other companies doing that same sort of work. You have a specific role for a specific reason.

‘When people do find out that I served they do say thank you and I always appreciate hearing that. People actually do care about what soldiers do.

‘I also suffer from PTSD from the accident, and even though [when I left] the Army finding work through my family circle was available; keeping the work, dealing with the stresses of travelling to the work, handling my frustration, the inability to concentrate and the self-destruction made it very hard on my family, with some leaving me as it was all too difficult.

‘My wife [pictured] and kids were and are still my support and I am truly not sure I would still be here if it weren’t for them.’

Numerous images of tattoos on parts of a man's body.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Matthew Tanner, Australian Army

Warrant Officer Class 2 Matthew Tanner, Australian Army

A male soldier in full combat uniform with a dark background behind him.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Matthew Tanner is a Combat Engineer attached to the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment at Robertson Barracks in Darwin.

Warrant Officer Tanner says he hasn’t experienced many lows in his 23-year career.

‘For me, my career has been highs all the time,' he says.

'I have been fortunate enough to deploy multiple times and actually do my job overseas.'

He has deployed to East Timor, Banda Aceh and been on five combat rotations of Afghanistan.

‘[My role] has been doing and teaching Improvised Explosive Device Disposal and Explosive Ordnance Disposal.’

He says he thinks it’s hard for people in Australia to see the difference the Australian Defence Force (ADF) made in Afghanistan.

‘Up until 2013, there was a significant difference to the Uruzgan area. The people appreciated it. It gave you a good feeling that we were actually doing something for the better,’ he says

Warrant Officer Tanner says it means a lot to him to serve in the ADF.

‘I get very emotional when people thank me for my service. I [serve] because I love this country. I do it to make sure that my kids can go to school, so that people can enjoy the freedom that they have now. 

‘I think we’ve got it pretty good here [in Australia] and I’m a small part of trying to provide that security for the nation. And that’s one of the reasons why I joined. That’s what service means to me.’