Keith Brennan
Kamilaroi man
Captain
Royal Australian Army Medical Corps
Australian Army

Medals
Australian Active Service Medal with clasp IRAQ 2003
Iraq Medal
Meritorious Unit Citation (Iraq 2005)
Australian Service Medal with clasps EAST TIMOR and TIMOR LESTE
National Police Service Medal
Defence Long Service Medal
The National Medal
Australian Defence Medal

 

In 1964, I was taken from my Indigenous mother at birth and made a ward of the state. At three months of age, I was adopted by a white couple who named me Keith Ian Brennan. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s, with the founding of Link-Up—a service to support people from the Stolen Generations—that I registered and arranged a meeting with my birth mother. We met at a cafe in Redfern in 1985, a poignant encounter after which I have not seen her again, respecting her wishes. She is still alive but now has dementia. In 2022, I received an apology letter from the then Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Mr. Ben Franklin.

As a proud Kamilaroi man and member of the Stolen Generations, I served my country in two conflicts—Iraq and East Timor. During these deployments, I was a full-time member of the Australian Army. From 1982 to 2017, I also served as a reservist. This experience supports the assertion that, since the 1990s, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have been a valued and integral part of the modern Australian Defence Force.

I have always been committed to community service, starting as an Honorary Officer with the New South Wales Ambulance Service in Ettalong while still in high school, working every Sunday afternoon. On my 17th birthday, I joined the Australian Army. After finishing school in 1982, I rejoined the New South Wales Ambulance Service and the 1st Field Ambulance Unit of the Australian Army Reserve. In 1984, after graduating from the New South Wales Police Academy, I took a three-year leave from the Army Reserves. My first posting was in Hornsby, and in 1986, I transferred to Queanbeyan. I returned to Newcastle in 1988, where I joined the highway patrol and served as a police motorcyclist, both on-road and trail. I served at various stations in the valley and was discharged in 2002. That same year, while working as a police officer in Newcastle, I returned to the Army Reserves as a Military Policeman.

I enrolled in a Bachelor of Medicine at Newcastle University in 1998; the course took five years to complete. Upon graduation, I interned and worked as a resident in the Hunter area, focusing on emergency medicine and serving in remote hospitals, often as the only doctor in town. I have worked in Tenterfield, Glen Innes, Broken Hill, Young, Nelson Bay Poly Clinic, and Cessnock and Kurri Kurri hospitals. My role involved covering the emergency department and caring for admitted patients. After my resident year, I enrolled in the College of General Practitioners, completing a four-year course and graduating with postgraduate qualifications, the FRACGP, in 2002. Subsequently, I went before the Officer’s Board and was accepted as an officer, promoted to the rank of Captain, and posted to 8CSSB.

In 2004, I specialized in basic anesthesia for a year. In 2005, I worked as a locum in several hospitals and as a GP in various locations across New South Wales. That same year, I was sent to East Timor as the Officer in Command (OIC) of the medical team, supporting ground troops and conducting urgent medical retrievals by helicopter before being posted to Iraq as the OIC of my medical team at the coalition forces’ hospital. I returned to East Timor in 2007 as the Officer in Charge of the Resuscitation Team and was honored to receive the Australian Active Service Medal from the Chief of Defence Force, General Sir Peter Cosgrove. I began postgraduate studies in 2006 and worked in the Cessnock Emergency Department in New South Wales in 2007. I completed my studies in 2008 and became a fully qualified doctor. I retired from the military in 2017. I am proud that my 2 oldest sons joined the military. One is in 6RAR Delta Coy, and the other is in 1 Sig Regt. Today, I’m still working as a GP in rural NSW.

Thank you to Keith Brennan for providing these personal photos of his military service to the Serving Country project.

2005 – In Iraq attending to serious trauma from IEDs and small arms fire.

2005 – Chief of Defence Force, General Sir Peter Cosgrove AK AC (mil) CVO MC presenting me with my Australian Active Service Medal

2005 – East Timor as OiC of my medical team

During my service with NSW Police