Frances Ah Mat Visini – known as ‘Frances/Choppy Ah Mat’
Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander
Yupungathi Clan of Western Cape York
Komet Clan of Murray Islands
Wagadagam Clan of Mabuyag Island
An Elder for the Navy Indigenous Development Program (current)
Petty Officer  – General Mariner (Current Role)  2022 –
Former WRAN Steward
Womens  Royal Australian Naval Service 1970 – 1972
Reservist 1972 – 1977

Australian Defence Medal


After completing Year 10 at the Thursday Island State High School in 1969, I gained work at the local hospital as a Nurse’s Aide.  One day, in March 1970, whilst walking to work, I saw that the Australian Defence Force Recruitment Team was set up in the Town Hall.  I decided to take the opportunity to go in and have a chat with them. After my chat with the Navy Recruitment Team, I sat the Entrance Test and passed.

On my 17th birthday, which was on October 2nd 1970,  I received a telegram informing me that I was accepted into the WRANS and would be in the November intake as a Recruit WRAN Steward.  I always wanted to join the Navy one day and was overwhelmed when I received the telegram. My parents were also proud of my decision to join the Navy.  I put my desire to achieve this dream down to the fact that I was well and truly inspired by a local girl on the island who had joined a few years earlier. I just loved seeing her in uniform when she came home on leave.  She had a very positive influence on me and made a big impact on my life. Her name was also Frances (RIP) I often think about her and silently thank her for being my inspiration.  I left Thursday Island on the 5th of November to catch a flight to Brisbane. I was sworn in on 6th November along with my good friend Pamela Tapim (Bowie). I spent the first 3 months at HMAS Cerberus in training, which involved learning how to march, how to fight fires and how to adapt to military life, among other things, but most importantly, to be an Officer’s Steward, which was the category I was given.  After I completed my training as an Officer’s Steward, I continued to work at the HMAS Cerberus Wardroom until August 1971 before being posted to HMAS Harman, where I continued working until July 1972. My next posting was to HMAS Albatross, which was the Naval Air Base in Nowra NSW.  This posting was a real eye-opener for me!  Planes and helicopters flew over the base 24/7. I continued to be in awe of it all until I left the service in December 1972. My final year of service was a very busy and exciting time for me as I also represented the Navy in both Inter-Service Basketball and Softball.  This involved travelling to different Army, Navy and Air Force bases to participate in the games.  All our hard work and training paid off as the Navy won every sporting event they competed in against the Army and the Air Force. The Navy made history that year!!

Joining the WRANS was one of the best decisions I ever made as it gave me the opportunity to experience life in the wider Australian Community—in essence, opening my eyes to the world. The confidence and motivation I gained from my service led me to pursue other things in life, most notably a Bachelor of Teaching (Early Childhood) and a Bachelor of Education at university, followed by almost 25 years as an educator (23 of these as a Primary School Teacher with Education Queensland). Serving my Country as an Indigenous Australian is something that I will always be proud of.  During my time in the WRANS I met and worked with lots of different people in a range of environments which were both supportive and challenging. Respect and loyalty were always present throughout my time in the WRANS.  I loved the spirit of friendship and support which continues today with my ex-Navy family.  Once Navy, Always Navy!

After being out of the Navy for over 50 years, I am proud to say that I am currently back in the Navy as a Reservist (Petty Officer) working with Indigenous Recruits as the Aunty of the Program, which is the first for the Navy. This role involves supporting and mentoring Indigenous Recruits who join through the Navy Indigenous Development Program. I am passionate about making a difference in the lives of our young people and feel privileged to be in this position. Being able to inspire, support, guide and mentor our next generation of Indigenous Australian Defence Force personnel is an absolute honour.

Other Serving Country portraits of Frances Ah Mat Visini

Frances Ah Mat Visini 24 July 2022