Paul Payne
1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
Australian Army

Australian Defence Medal


I was born and partly raised in Griffith, NSW, and then moved to Melbourne when I was about 11 years old. I was a pretty sheltered kid growing up; whether by choice or design, it is still a mystery to me. After finishing high school in 2015, I decided to go to University on a bridging program for Indigenous students to study a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne in 2016. Unfortunately, I became lost very quickly; too much independence too fast can be devastating, and thus, I ended up developing an addiction to alcohol.

I have always had aspirations to join the Army, starting off with an application to join the Army Reserves, but once I gave up on University, I decided to fully commit to going for a full-time role as an Infantryman, enlisting under the Indigenous Pre-Recruitment Program. My March Out from Recruit Training was the proudest moment of my life, both for me and my family, then moving on to Employment Training at the School of Infantry in Singleton, NSW. That was not without difficulty, not only through the course, but through a combination of injury and personal failings I was back squaded and downgraded, staying there from June 2018 to Finally Marching Out in March of 2020, having finally obtained my Skippy Badge and Green Beret.

I posted to the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, in March of 2020 when  COVID broke out, and I spiralled into an alcoholic misadventure that led to a major mental health crisis. As a result, this led to me having to medically separate from ADF in July 2022.

After a small break to nurse my habit, I decided to have a second go at university, applying under the Veteran Entry Program at Australian Catholic University. Since October of 2023, I have successfully managed to stay sober for over 8 months as of writing this. Finding my faith by converting to the Catholic Church and becoming involved with the young Catholic community in Melbourne has given me purpose. I have become immersed in the ACU Student Veteran community as Secretary of the Melbourne Student Veterans’ Society, and am providing regular support to the ACU campus’ Indigenous Higher Education Unit and the Veteran Services Liaison Officer.

All of these successes can be attributed to my new-found faith in God, my ongoing sobriety, and my active involvement in all of the student communities that I identify with.