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The Canberra Yarn Up was held 15-16 December 2015 at AIATSIS, Acton, and wrapped up an amazing two years of travel and recording in every state and territory of Australia for the project.
Mick, Mary-Anne, Allison, Craig and Kate were kept busy over the two days hearing family histories of service from places as diverse as Shepparton in Victoria, Cape Barren Island in Tasmania and WW2 service stories from Queensland:
Fred Leftwich discussed his father’s 20 years of service, and the effect that this had on family as Fred’s father suffered from PTSD and alcoholism. Lyle Holt spoke to us about his service in the Navy and then Air force, and explained his career highlights in both combat and non-combat roles and his progression to a very senior position in the defence force. Tyronne Bell shared histories of his Ngunnawal relatives from the Yass area who served in both World Wars and the Boer War.
Many other participants shared their stories with us here in Canberra over the life of the project, including Glenda Humes who spoke to us in July 2014 about her family’s rich history of service, which includes her father, Captain Reginald Walter Saunders, who served in both World War 2 and the Korean War and her uncle Harry Saunders, who was killed in New Guinea while serving. Gaye Doolan spoke to us in August 2014 about her service in the Women’s Royal Australian Navy Service from 1968, and the service of her father Tasman Holt in World War 2 in Borneo. In the same month, Edward Bailey spoke to us about his time in the air force in Townsville in the 1990s, including why he enlisted and his experiences with racism.
In December 2014, Pattie Lees spoke to us about her service with the Navy, the path that led to that service, and her later life. This was one of a number of interviews conducted in Canberra alongside our major conference Defending Country: Sharing Stories of Aboriginal and Torres Islander Service.
In September 2015, Dennis Anderson spoke to us about his service in the Air Force, and his experiences including the dangerous but rewarding work he undertook managing and transporting explosives, and his pride in doing that work well.
In November 2016, Steve Jones spoke to us about being the first known Aboriginal graduate of the Royal Military College (RMC) Duntroon, and his extensive and varied work in the military over many years, where he travelled frequently and was promoted many times. Steve served in Timor-Leste in a senior position and his final military role was as Australia’s Military Attache to the United Nations in New York.
In December 2016, Thelma Weston spoke to us about relocating to Brisbane as a child from Murray Island with her family during World War 2. She also spoke about her training as a nurse at Brisbane General Hospital and joining the WRAAC where she completed her nursing training. Thelma loved her time in the Army and said that what she loved it about it most was the comradeship among all ‘the girls’.
In September 2010, Torres Strait Islander Ezra Anu was interviewed in Canberra by Noah Riseman and spoke about joining the army at age 18. Ezra’s 22 years in the Navy included serving in Malaysia in the early 1980s and training British troops in Europe in the late 1980s.