Francis Sonny Graham Unmeopa
Nosik (tribe) Samsep
Pek (division) Samsep Meriam.
Totems are Beizam (Tiger shark), Sap/Sarp (driftwood), Korseimer (moth), and Deumer (Torres Strait Pigeon).
9th Battalion, Royal Queensland Regiment
Royal Australian Infantry Corps
Army Reserve 1983-1989,

Able Seaman
HMAS Swan DE50, HMAS Labuan LCH28, IMFOR Squadron, HMAS Albatross
Royal Australian Navy 1989-1993

2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
Royal Australian Infantry Corps
Australian Regular Army 2000-2004

Commendation for Distinguished Service
Australian Active Service Medal  with clasps East Timor, ICAT & Iraq 2003
Iraq Medal
Australian Service Medal  with clasp CT/SR (Counter Terrorism & Special Recovery)
Australian Defence Medal
UN Medal East Timor
Infantry Combat Badge
Awarded a Commanding Officer’s Commendation in the RAN


I was born in 1966 in Brisbane and was removed within days of my birth during a period known as the Forced Adoption Era, so I never knew my language, my lore, my dance, my totems and all that comes with being part of that until later in life. In 1972, I was finally fostered out and adopted. Being a ‘half-caste’ kid in the 70s was real tough; I was bashed in every one of the nine different schools I went to in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. In Papua New Guinea, I learned to speak fluent pidgin and some Haku, a dialect of Buka Island. I learned how to use a bow and arrow, how to spear fish on the reef and how to catch Urita (octopus) by hand. When I returned to school in Australia, I was very different to my peer group. I was rebellious and struggled to fit in much of the time, yet I always made friends. Once, when I ran away from home, I encountered a very bad person on a dark stretch of road. I never spoke of it for decades. Now, I own that event, amongst others, they do not control me, and I can speak of them openly, especially when it helps others. I was only twelve and a half years old.

I finished school at fifteen and went to work pushing trolleys at Coles, working as a labourer and as a glassie at a hotel. I made three failed attempts to enlist in the Regular Army at fifteen, seventeen and twenty-two. I was devastated, as my education level was extremely poor. But in 1983, I enlisted in my local battalion of the Army Reserve, the 9th Battalion, Royal Queensland Regiment. In 1989, I enlisted in the RAN, graduating from HMAS Cerberus on 31 March 1989, and was awarded the ‘Recruit of the Intake’ Award by Commodore Taylor.

During my four years in the RAN, I served on the Destroyer Escort HMAS Swan DE50 and HMAS Labuan LCH 28 (Landing Craft Heavy). I also served in the IMFOR Squadron, the Interim Minesweeping Force. We were a small unit with tight-knit crews operating the Auxiliary Minesweepers: AM Kooraga, AM Salvatore and AM Brolga. When the RAAF 707 crashed in Bass Strait in October 1991, the Brolga, equipped with side scan sonar, was crash-sailed with the difficult task of locating the wreckage and recovering the remains of the crew. Eight years later, I changed tack and went through the Grunt Factory, aka the School of Infantry, ending up at the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. In 2001, I deployed as No. 1 Scout in 5 Section, 2 Platoon, A Company to East Timor up on the border. My ability to speak the local western dialect of Kemak helped when two trackers nervously told me about the two spirits within the forest that could steal us away. My belief systems were quite different from those of my peers, but I was able to convince my Lieutenant that we needed to move out of the forest. We came home, and I did a Q’ies (Quartermaster) course. I ended up at 1 Squadron, SAS Regiment (SASR) as one of their Q’ies, and by 10 February 2003, we were in the Middle East.

After returning home, I discharged from the regular army in March 2004. I then found myself back in the mines in the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia. In May 2004, I began my latest adventure as an armed contractor in various conflict zones. This, like much of my story, is a sub-story in itself of guns, brothers, the teams, and the ever-present threat of harm, be they IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), VBIEDS (Vehicle Borne IEDs), SAF (Small Arms Fire) and indirect fire in the form of mortars and rockets.

I’ve been a runaway, a sailor, a miner, a soldier, a ‘contractor’, and once I even hunted for treasure. I searched my whole life for my reef, knowing I came from somewhere, and I swam through life looking for my reef. Finally, in 2019, I found it.

I served to give something back to this country, and I served with honour. No soldier or sailor was better than me just because of his former station in life, where he thought he stood on the social ladder or how much money he had. We all strapped on the same boots, carried the same packs, ate the same food, endured the same bullshit, and we all laughed at the same things. That is such a really cool thing to be a part of, and believe me, it’s even better to look back on it when you are further down this track called life. It has been my experience that to give without expectation is one of the greatest investments a person can make in themselves. And if you couple this with empathy and humility, you will generate both pride and self-respect.  With these traits, you will be a good person, and if all you ever are… is simply a good person, then what more could you ask for?