Colin Watego OAM
A very proud Bundjalung (Northern Rivers of New South Wales), Torres Strait Islander and South Sea Islander Man
Retired Warrant Officer Class One
Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery
Past Senior Indigenous Culture Officer
Australian Defence Force
East Timor Veteran

Medals and Awards
Medal of the Order of Australia – Military Division.
Australian Active Service Medal – East Timor
International Force East Timor Medal
Defence Long Service Medal with 5 clasps
Federation Star
Australian Defence Medal
Silver Commendation Australian Army
Bronze Commendation Australian Army
Returned from Active Service Badge
Army Combat Badge

I am Warrant Officer Class One Colin (Col) Watego, OAM. I was born in Bangalow, NSW, as the eldest of six children – four boys and two girls. My family initially lived in Byron Bay, NSW, where Wategos Beach is named after our ancestors. When I was young, we moved to Mount Gravatt in the southern suburbs of Brisbane, Queensland, living in a two-bedroom fibro home leased through the Queensland Housing Commission.

Educated in Queensland, my brother Neil and I joined the Army Cadets while still in school. At the age of 20, following in the footsteps of many men in my family, Neil and I decided to join the Defence Force (Army). We both enlisted into the Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery (RAA) on 3 September 1974. The lineage of service in my family includes my father, Col Watego Senior (WW2); my uncles, Vince Watego (who died in the Defence of Australia at El Alamein) and Clarence Watego (WW2); my grandfather, Murray Watego (WW1 and WW2); my great uncle, George Watego (WW1); and my great uncle by marriage, Peter Knowles (WW1).

Neil and I initially enlisted in the Army Reserve, but after Neil completed his tenure and discharged, I continued to serve and eventually transferred to the Australian Regular Army (ARA), continuing to serve in Artillery full-time. In March 2012, I separated from the Regular Army and transferred back into the Active Army Reserve, where I continue to serve today. My youngest brother, Lloyd Watego, also served with pride in the Australian Regular Army, discharging after seven years.

To date, I have served 42 years in the Australian Defence Force as a “Gunner,” although I am currently posted to a non-Corps position. In 1999, I deployed to East Timor with “A” Field Battery RAA and upon returning to Australia in 2000, I was appointed Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) of the 8th/12th Medium Regiment – Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery. A significant highlight of my military career was wearing the same colour patch on my hat that my father wore on his shoulder as a Gunner during the Second World War.

My last Artillery Regimental appointment was as the Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery’s Corps Regimental Sergeant Major (RMG RAA) from 2004 to 2006. After this, I was appointed Regimental Sergeant Major at the Defence Police Training Centre, Military Police.

In 2009, I became the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) Senior Indigenous Recruitment Officer and Senior Indigenous Military Mentor of the ADF Indigenous Pre-Recruitment Course (IPRC). Since then, I have actively engaged with young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trainees, mentoring them as they prepare for the Defence Force Recruiting Process.

From 2008 to 2016, the ADF IPRC delivered Defence and non-Defence training to young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women from communities across Australia. Today, Navy, Army, and Air Force Indigenous Programs provide high-quality training to encourage, empower, and propel young Indigenous Australians into the ADF, offering a challenging yet rewarding long-term career.

In July 2015, I was presented the Federation Star, an honour recognising 40 years of continuous service to Defence. My most memorable experience as a proud Indigenous Australian soldier was serving as Honour Guard Commander at the inaugural Indigenous Military Ceremony at ANZAC Cove Gallipoli, where we paid respect and acknowledged the sacrifice of all warriors, particularly the warrior spirit of our Indigenous ancestors.

In 2016, I was honoured to be included in the Queen’s Honour’s List and awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for meritorious service to Indigenous Affairs in the Australian Defence Force.

When not training young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women for potential pathways into the Australian Defence Force or Australian Public Service, I lead my organisation, TRYP Consultancy Pty Ltd (To Reach Your Potential). We conduct youth leadership and team-building development programs based on a modified Defence Force Recruit Training Model. TRYP aims to deliver foundational life skills, leadership and team-building skills, employability skills, culture, and education, empowering our youth to contribute positively to the community. In September 2016, I was honoured to be named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International for my contributions to Indigenous youth through TRYP Consultancy Pty Ltd.

I firmly believe that our youth are our future and that they possess the same warrior spirit as our ancestors. It is our responsibility to encourage, mentor, and empower them to develop and strengthen their warrior spirit, so they too can follow in the footsteps of their warrior ancestors and become confident and competent citizens, serving the community and the country.

Please Note:
The photo portrays Warrant Officer Class One Colin Watego, OAM during his appointment as the Corps Regimental Sergeant Major – Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery – (Regimental Master Gunner) between (2004 – 2006).