Alec Illin was born in Townsville in 1947. He spent the first part of his childhood growing up in Ingham, before returning to Townsville at around the age of ten, where he has lived ever since. Alec’s two uncles, Dick and Tommy, served in the armed forces. His father also joined the Army; however, he was discharged after only a short time due to medical reasons. Alec himself enlisted for service in 1965 and served in the Vietnam War, rising to the rank of Section Commander. While in the Army, Alec said he was not looked upon as a blackfella. Rather, his battalion respected him as a leader.