Robert Patterson (deceased)
Gunggandji Man
Yarrabah, Queensland
Retired Private
8/9th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment
Royal Australian Infantry Corps
Enoggera Barracks Brisbane QLD

I was born in Yarrabah Hospital on the 19th of July 1953 to Hope and Robert Patterson, Senior. My siblings are Audrey (deceased), Samuel (deceased), Rita, Fiona, Howard, Ian, Vanessa, David, Hope (deceased), Gavin (deceased), Brent Pearson, Noel Barlow (deceased), Lloyd and Neil, both deceased and Jason Fourmile as well as Yvette Murgha, Steven Schreiber, Clay Hunter, and Martin Sands. Growing up in Yarrabah was an adventure, one we all enjoyed, especially growing up with the Conley family. We went camping over at Giriga, fishing, dragging nets along the beach getting prawns. Crabbing was one of my favourites – sliding out in the mud for wirral (scallops). Those were the good old days. My best friends were Jackie Cannon, Walter Bingiru, Daniel Kyle, Keith Street, Paul Sexton, Lindsey Yeatman, Minor Andrews, Joan, Barry Maloney, Nannette, Burns Sands, and Patterson Fourmile.

I had great respect for all my elders, sitting and yarning up with them, especially with Granddad Wilfred, and Granddad Hillary who was a great leader and a very cultural person in our community. Going to school every day was important to us. Even though we had no electricity in our classroom and no tuck shop, we would still go to school every day and enjoy being with our friends. We never missed one day at school unless we were sick. In 1965, we moved into our new classroom with new furniture and… electricity!

In 1969, I went to high school in Cairns – I had to travel by boat every morning with all the other Yarrabah children back then. When I left high school, I wanted to do something adventurous, so I joined the army, and it took me to many places. Mum and Dad put on a special dinner for me and my girlfriend, Margaret, who became my first wife. After many years in the Army, I came home and married Margaret. Together we had Anthea, Enid, Robert, Jr. And Bessie. After many years of married life, we separated, and both of us moved on, but remained good friends. I met Wendy Ann Ludwig, and we had James, Ruth and Wyndham. I have 19 grandchildren now. I worked in various places. I went for the Yarrabah Community Police, as a teacher’s aide at the secondary school, as a museum curator, and as the Council Chairman. One of the biggest moments in my life was when, in 2011, the entire headland of Yarrabah was returned to the us, the Traditional owners. We fought for this for more than 25 years.

Another big moment was when, while serving as RSL Chapter President, Yarrabah became the first Indigenous community to establish its own Chapter of the RSL (Returned Services League) prior to becoming a full RSL sub-branch in 2014. We paved the way for other Indigenous communities to do the same.