Phillip Bowie was born on Thursday Island, and has family connections to Badu Island in the Torres Strait. Phillip joined the Navy in 1965 after recruiters visited Thursday Island seeking to enlist Torres Strait Islanders. Racism was rife during his service and Phillip said that both Aboriginal people and other minorities were treated differently to white members of the RAN. More than not being treated equally, Phillip voiced his experience in the Navy, particularly treatment by senior officers, as abusive and, at times, frightening. Like his mate Les Boyd, Phillip said that the Navy taught him how to cope with, and survive, racism and inequality.