Ezra Anu – deceased
Torres Strait Islander (Saibai Island)
Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery
Australian Army

Australian Service Medal with clasp SE Asia
Defence Force Service Medal with clasp
Australian Defence Medal


My parents are from Saibai Island in the Torres Strait, and I was the youngest of 7 children, we are a very Christian family. In 1947, they had migrated to Bamaga, in Cape York because of the floods. Our lives there were controlled by Native Affairs and after the 1967 Referendum, when I was 10, we sailed in Dad’s pearling lugger to Cairns in search of a better life. Dad worked in the cane fields, and I had to learn to speak English – I only spoke our traditional language. But I learnt quickly.

I enlisted in the Army in 1977, after leaving high school.  Dad served in the Torres Strait Light Infantry during WW2 and my cousin had served in Vietnam. They were my inspiration and encouraged me to join up. Following Corps training in Artillery I was posted to Townsville before deploying to Malaysia in 1982, and to Hawaii in 1984 for joint operations with US forces.

In 1988, I was promoted to Sergeant and sent to Europe to instruct the British Army on the Rhine in chemical and biological warfare. We operated along the Berlin Wall the year before it came down. After Europe I moved into Indigenous Recruiting. To me that was the highlight of my military career. The Army wanted to send me back on operations, even offered me promotion as instructor at Royal Military College but I said no, and I discharged in 1999. While working in Cairns, in 2001, I began a new life with my partner Jennifer, who I will love till the day I die. I had two boys and two girls from my first marriage, and also adopted my cousin’s son. My second son followed my example and joined the military.

In civilian life, I had a desire to help our people, so began working across community and government in human resources and services, social policy, employment and training, and community development. Doing this I drew on all I’d learned in the Army, and I had several government positions including ATSIC, Education and Department of Defence. Social justice plays a big role in what I do and I volunteer to help people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, in whatever way I can, to better their lives. In 2006, I graduated from Curtin University with a Bachelor of Social Sciences, following this in 2010 with a Diploma of Government.

I go to the Anzac Day services every year. I find people respect me more because of my Army service. I’m in touch with family in Bamaga. They want me to go back and be a community leader. It’s important we recognise the contribution Aboriginal and Torres Strait people have made to building and defending this country, even when their rights weren’t recognised. My hope for the future is that our young ones learn that same commitment.