Peter (Wilfred Cecil) Smith (deceased)
Kamilaroi Man
Retired Warrant Officer Class 2
2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment
Royal Australian Infantry Corps
Australian Army Training Team Vietnam AATTV
Australian Army Aviation Corps
Malaya & Vietnam Veteran

Australian Active Service Medal 1945-75 with 2 clasps
General Service Medal with clasp
Vietnam Medal
Defence Force Service Medal (23 years)
National Medal
Australia Defence Medal
Anniversary of National Service Medal 1951-72
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
Infantry Combat Badge

Born on the 5th February 1934 to parents Thomas Stanley Smith from Liverpool England and mother Charlotte Mary Russell Local indigenous woman from Mogil Mogil, I was the youngest of 9 children with 6 brothers James, Cyril, Reginald, Leslie, Thomas and Burt and 2 sisters Kathryn and Heather. I was welcomed into this world by my brother Burt at our home in Murrundi. During my junior school days, I learned Latin and enjoyed rugby, squash tennis, and mountain climbing, especially the eye of the mountain in Murrundi. I last hiked in 2012 with my daughters Louise, and Christine, granddaughter Rebecca and John, while Val and son John enjoyed the view from the bottom. I was sent to Boarding school and believe it or not, I did run amuck in my early teen years. The 1st year of boarding school was hard but it got better. I left home just before my 17th birthday and got a job as a rabbit hunter taking up to 17 dogs with me I worked on neighbouring properties around the Snowy Mountains region. I didn’t waste anything, I’d eat the rabbits and keep the skins to keep warm. I was born Wilfred Cecil Peter Smith, but I am known as Peter Smith.

I decided to go to Melbourne to work in the army citizens military, today, known as the army reserves. I was there when I got a telegram that my father had passed away, and I didn’t make it in time to be at the funeral. So I stayed in Murrindi and started working in the regular army, which was from 1954. I always knew I’d join as I had 2 older brothers who went to WW1 and WW2, even though one was captured as a prisoner of war for over 3 years. So in 1952 I spent two years Citizens Military Forces (CMF), before enlisting in the Australian Regular Army from February 1955.

When I met my future wife Valma Jean Heap at a dance, I knew I had just met the most beautiful woman in the world. On the 23rd of April 1955, we eloped whilst Val was pregnant with our son Wayne who was welcomed into this world in 7th of October 1955 in Sydney. Then Coral, Russell, and Louise, followed, all born in Scone, while we lived in Murrundi. At this time I was working in the Army bases at Kapooka and Wagga Wagga to support our family.

In 1956 I went to Malaysia, serving in the 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment. In this time Coral was born on the 24th of February 1957 – her birth was the only birth of my children that I missed. But we hadn’t finished yet – in 1961 the family moved to Ipswich and that was where Christine, Steven, Bernadette, Jonathon and Kathryn were all born. I worked at the Ambly Army base and all the kids would go to see the massive army planes take off and use the facilities, and Valma would say they would catch us out ‘cause from the planes, they could the pool water – and if it changed colour they knew someone had done a number 1’s.

While in Ipswich I thought I’d pursue some acting at the local theatre, nearly forty years later it paid off when I got a small acting role on the big-screen movie Goldstone – all the family got a copy of it!

I served in Vietnam from October 1966 to October 1967 with the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV) in various locations throughout Vietnam firstly with the ‘Winning Hearts and Minds Team’ based in Hoa Long and then Duc Thanh before being transferred to the United States 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces Airborne based in Nah Trang and operating out towards the Lao and Cambodian border. I had to learn Vietnamese before I left Australia to convince the Vietnamese I was a friend and not the enemy. My training included jumping out of planes as I was sent on solo missions into villages never knowing what was ahead of learning to fly a helicopter straight and land it at night, then I’d report back to his regiment. I shared many meals with the locals, one of the first meals I remember memory with the locals was eating fresh monkey brains – they’d just remove the brain of a monkey while it was still alive, as it was their tradition – don’t ask me what it was like.

After a couple of years back in Australia I transferred to the Australian Army Aviation Corps I served in several positions including Squadron Sergeant Major (SSM) and having completed an Air Traffic Controller course was appointed Operations Warrant Officer in 1st Aviation Regiment based at Oakey on the Darling Downs in Queensland. It was during this time that I was required to learn to fly a Kiowa helicopter ‘straight and level’ and land during the day and at night. I was not required to take off as it was explained that one would not normally take off without a pilot but we may be required to return to base and land without the pilot. This was a great experience as was my experience in every unit in which I served.

In 1978 I retired from the Australian Army as a Warrant Officer Class 2. After leaving the Army I started working for the Aboriginal Ranger Service. In this role I located, recorded, and protected sacred Aboriginal sites throughout different regions in Queensland. I travelled to various places including Weipa, Cape York, Saibai, Bamaga where David and Shelly were born. I went to Thursday Island and was greeted by Friday on a Saturday. When I visited Warrabinda to explore sacred sites, it was here I met for the first time my mum’s sister an incredible 1500 km away from Murrundai.

I became involved with the Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, in Rockhampton under the guidance of Father Hayes Peter was ordain, which allowed me to do baptisms, along with other holy orders. In 1980 I baptized my grandson, Peter Sellars at a sacred site, Rainbow Falls at Blackdown Tablelands central QLD. This caused a ruckus in state or federal parliament, and it is at this time this is when Bob Katter reached out to support me with his political influence. This grew into a close bond and friendship between us. In 1986 I was invited to Alice Springs to greet Pope John Paul II and later in 2008, Pope Benedict in Sydney said, “To all indigenous people in Australia, you are a part of Australia and Australia is a part of you. And the church herself in Australia will not be fully the church that Jesus wants her to be until you have made your contribution to her life and until that contribution has been joyfully received by others. For others to joyfully receive our contribution then we as indigenous Christians have to be actively engaged and offer our gifts to the church.”

I moved to Mount Isa in 1987, still working as a Park Ranger and I immediately got involved with the AICC and Catholic Parish Center. My role in the ranger service took me all over the northwest as far as Mornington Island south to Birdsville and west to Winton. I’d take all school groups to local areas such as Painted Rock and 3 Steps and many, many more. I’d seen so much of Queensland the islands and parts of northern territory, always respecting, and keeping in touch with the land animals all of it natural beauty. Many times I’d bring back injured animals not sure what nana thought about that as sometimes the wallabies became long-time pets, and our young grandchildren at times would let them out for a run. When my time finished as a ranger I transitioned to my other passion the AICC. I was involved with NATSICC from the 1st gathering of the AICC IN Cairns 1989, the gathering recommended the establishment of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Catholic Council, it was there I was appointed to the 1st working party,  as QLD representative on the inaugural NATSICC IN 1991. I was the council chairperson from 1997 to 2000. I received my Diploma of Theology in 2004 at 70 years of age and in 2008  – aged 74, I was awarded NATSICC Community Elder Award. I got to go to the United Nations in Geneva to attend and actively participated in several Indigenous Affairs Council meetings as far away as New York being the Commissioner of the Churches on International Affairs for the World Council Churches.

Whilst there I got to keep an eye on two daughters, Louise and Christine who helped out in the Jangawala Drop-In Center along with the other women Tasha Tamara and Relo Rhondo to name a few, drinking many cups of tea they made for me. Not far away was my beautiful wife, she would be there most days as well. I was involved with AA supporting people and guiding them to better choices in life, I was only a phone call away from them and my family knew how many times the phone would ring late at night and someone needed me and I would just up and go. I enjoyed going bush and participating in the bush masses it was my favourite and most relaxing thing to be doing alongside Aunty Colleen Aunty Dolly and Aunty Liz. I travelled all over with the AICC for funerals smoking ceremonies, people’s places to do cleansings the removal of evil spirits and to bless their place, baptisms and in true form for my great-grandson Damien and great-granddaughter Taleah. I was also involved at the RSL and proudly attended the Anzac marches, and when I couldn’t walk I got driven in the side cart of the motorcycle which was ‘pretty cool’ as my grandchildren said.

Pop came into and left this world as a proud Kamilaroi man, who was recognized as a community elder, and leader, not just throughout North West Queensland but across Australia representing his culture and his faith.

He took his last breath 5 past 7 on the 20th of February 2023 alongside family members, his oldest son to his great-great-great-granddaughter it was a moment in life we all should cherish being by his side as he opened his eyes to see us all as last memory.

LOVE YOU – your grandson Luke Saunders