Dennis Maher
Warrwa People, Kimberley
Sergeant (retired)
Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Australian Regular Army
Iraq veteran

Australian Active Service Medal
Iraq Medal (Two Tours)
Australian Service Medal
Australian Operational Service Medal – Border Protection
Defence Long Service Medal with three Clasps
Australian Defence Medal

My People are the Warrwa from the Kimberley region. I was born in Mullewa in 1964 but fostered when I was one by Jim and Jesse Patterson and grew up in Perth. My Dad, Jim Patterson, served with the 2/28th Infantry Battalion in the Pacific during WW2. Dad didn’t usually talk about the war, but after Mum retired for the night we’d put some wood in the kitchen stove and start rolling a few beers from the freezer. Then Dad would start telling me what he’d experienced during the war. If it wasn’t for Dad’s stories of WW2, my army career may never have happened. Dad’s advice was, ‘If you’re going to do something, stick to it’. And I have! – I’ve been in uniform ever since I was ten, joining the Cubs, Sea Scouts and later Navy Cadets.

Then, in 1982, when I was 18, I enlisted in the Army Reserve Artillery. At the time I was doing my apprenticeship as a fitter/machinist. Dad wouldn’t let me join the Regular Army until I’d finished my apprenticeship and I’m so glad he made me do that.  In 1985, after I’d got my trade, I enlisted in the Regular Army, and was posted to 3 Brigade Overseas Deployment Force (ODF) at Townsville. It was during this time in Queensland that my children were born – Michael in 1986, Jackson in 1987, and my daughter Nikki in 1988. In 1988 I transferred Corps from Artillery to Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RAEME). I spent the remaining 32 years of my military career in RAEME as an Armourer, Marine Mechanic and Marine Engineer. In this role I have supported many different Units throughout Australia – Special Air Service Regiment (SASR), 2nd Field Support Battalion in Townsville where I was awarded Soldier of the Year in 1993, 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Darwin, 8/12 Medium Artillery Regiment, 1st Combat Engineer Regiment, and Joint Logistics Unit North (JLU-N). I deployed overseas on active operations three times. In 1998 I served as part of Operation Bel Isi, Australia’s peace-keeping mission to Bougainville. In 2005 and again in 2007, I deployed with 2nd Cavalry Regiment on Operation Catalyst to Iraq. During this time we must have patrolled over 30,000kms. When you left to go out on operations you’d wonder if you’d ever see your room again. Realising a lot of the young soldiers looked to me for confidence, I’d tell them “You’ll be right, I’m coming out with you.” There was no time to think of myself until I got back to Australia. In 2009 I transferred back to Reserves, deploying to the Top End with Norforce and Pilbara Regiment on Border Protection. In 2016 I posted to Army School of Logistic Operations (ASLO), South Bandiana, Victoria as Instructor for RAEME promotion courses.

Football has always been a passion of mine. In my early years I played Rugby League for the Belmont Rabbitohs, Juniors and Seniors. Throughout my military service I continued to play and coach football both Rugby League and AFL wherever I was posted. In 1993 in Townsville I made University Hawks Aussie Rules Club ‘Best And Fairest’ and runner up for AFL ‘Best and Fairest’, and ‘Best on Ground’ in the Grand Final. Later, with 2nd Cavalry, I made Brigade ‘Best and Fairest’. It was while visiting schools with 2nd Cavalry in Arnhem Land that I first engaged with Aboriginal children from remote communities. That was the beginning of my long commitment to mentoring Indigenous youth, working with Navy Indigenous Development Programs and Indigenous Recruiting. From 2019 to 2020, on my last deployment, I supported the Army Indigenous Development Program at Regional Force Surveillance Group in Darwin. The beauty of these programs is it sets young Indigenous people up for life – and what more satisfaction can you get than that?

On 18th September 2020 I took final discharge from the Army and was presented by Commander, Regional Force Surveillance Group, Colonel John Papalitsas with a certificate of appreciation for my 38 years of service.

Thank you to retired Sergeant Dennis Maher for providing these photos of his service in the Australian Army

Dennis Maher and mates take time out from duties for a photo op.