Kristy Brown
Yuin Nation
Royal Australian Navy

Australian Active Service Medal with clasp ICAT
Afghanistan Medal
Australian Defence Medal


My name is Kristy-Lee Brown and I am a 41 years old single mother of two beautiful girls. My family are the Traditional Owners of Wreck Bay Aboriginal community, in the Dhurga and Dharawal speaking language groups, of the Yuin Nation on the South Coast, New South Wales. My grandmother’s bloodlines are from Cullunghutti (Coolangatta Mountain) and extend down to Ulladulla and I have family all the way up to Brewarrina in NSW.

At Wreck Bay we grew up eating fish that Dad caught and painting each other in clay at the beach. We grew up alongside all the Navy kids, whose parents worked at HMAS Creswell. These kids went to our school and some lived in houses on the patch that was attached to the Navy base. As kids, we grew up hearing the stories of these Navy kids, about their adventures, where they had lived around Australia and what their parents had done. These stories intrigued me and I think that it was because of these stories, that I was attracted to join the Navy and not the other Defence services.

When I was 18 years old, I applied for the Navy, but I didn’t do that well in my recruitment application. I was still really passionate about joining though and after a couple of years of waiting I decided to go to a Career Expo and check it out. There were some cute pilots there on the day so that was an added bonus too.

While at the Expo, on my own, I ran into Uncle Col Watego, who was an Indigenous RSM from the Army. He talked to me about joining the Defence Indigenous Pre-Recruitment Course (IPRC), the pilot program for NSW, which was a leadership and recruitment course for Indigenous people who were thinking about joining the Australian Defence Force. By that Monday, I had left my home at Wreck Bay and had joined Uncle and his team to commence training for the next 4 or 5 months on IPRC. I passed all the training and out of the 15+ who were on the program 4 of us had decided to continue with our recruitment application to join the ADF. I was the only female from this group of 4 and the only one to join the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). I can’t speak highly enough about Uncle Col or the Defence Indigenous Pre-Recruitment course as it changed my life.

On the 18th January 2010 when I was 26 years old, I started at the RAN Recruit School. A number of my relatives and Elders in my community have served in the Australian Defence Force (ADF). For example Elders such as Uncle Phillip McLeod. However, these relatives and Elders have all been men and I am proud to say that I am the first female, from Wreck Bay, to join and serve in the Navy. I proudly served for 10 and a half years and ended up leaving for family matters on the 20th of September, 2020.

I till actively encourage my nieces, nephews and cousins to join the Navy and to seek other pathways outside of community so that they can bring their skills and trade experience back to our community. The experience that they gain outside of community will teach them to walk between worlds.

Within my first few months in the Royal Australian Navy, I was flown over to Bahrain to join HMAS Parramatta for Operation Slipper in Dubai. It was on that Jolly that I told myself that this is why I joined the Navy. This adventure gave me the confidence to pursue a posting on HMAS Melbourne. We were at sea for a long time and I loved every bit of it, as it was a real adventure. Small community girl sailing outside of Sydney heads, the feeling is indescribable. I still get jitters from that experience.

Following my sea posting I worked at HMAS Creswell at the School of Ships Survivability and Safety (commonly referred to as the S’s). Working at the S’s provided me the ability to work in a training environment and become an instructor during the week, but also have the convenience to live in my community and be surrounded by family afterhours and on weekends. I was so proud to be the first female from my community to join the Navy and I was so proud to now be seen in that community as a role model.

Yeah, I’ll make sure that my kids are raised hearing my stories about when I served in the Navy. I’ll be encouraging them to follow their dreams and if they wish to join the Navy, chasing an adventure to see the world, I will support that, as my parents have done for me. I have no regrets at all and would definitely do it all again, if I had the chance.