Tara Enchong
Mer (Murray) and Erub (Darnley) Islands – Zenadth Kes (Torres Strait)
Ngati Whatua Māori tribe – Aotearoa (New Zealand)
Royal Australian Air Force
Afghanistan Veteran

Medals and Awards
Australian Active Service Medal with clasp ICAT (International Campaign Against Terrorism)
Afghanistan Medal
Defence Long Service Medal
Australian Defence Medal
NATO Medal with clasp ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) and Multi-Tour Indicator 2
Meritorious Unit Citation
Chief of Air Force Gold Commendation
AVM BA Eaton Airman of the Year (2013)


My family have a proud military history going back generations. This contribution expands across the services for both Australia and Aotearoa. It’s something I’m able to draw strength from to persevere though challenging times.

I was born in Bowen QLD, the eldest of two children. My Dad, Mick, joined the Air Force shortly after I was born and served almost 35 years as a Communications Electronics Technician before retiring as a Warrant Officer. My little brother Jason enlisted a few months before me. He spent 14 years in the Army (Cavalry) before transferring to Air Force and commissioning as an Indigenous Liaison Officer. My Mum Trish, as well as being a vital support to our family as we each navigate ADF service life, also worked many years in Defence as an Australian Public Servant before retiring.

I enlisted into the Air Force from Brisbane, QLD, at 23 years old. I joined as what is now called an Air Intelligence Analyst (AIA), specialising in Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT). I completed recruit training at RAAF Base Wagga NSW, and initial employment training at the Defence Intelligence Training Centre in Canungra QLD. After training, I’ve worked in many places around Australia, was attached to a United States Air Force squadron in Hawaii and deployed multiple times on overseas operations.

My duties change with each posting but generally involves collecting and analysing various types of intelligence to then using the important pieces to develop different products. This could include making and delivering intelligence briefs to provide a commander more detail of a battlespace, or generating weaponeering and targeting solutions for air operations. Some of my favourite GEOINT roles have been mission planning for the F-111 jets before they retired, training members for operational deployments, analysing live video from Remotely Piloted Aircraft and helping to stand up a new Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance capability for Defence.

I really enjoy my primary role and am extremely passionate about my culture. I love the times when I can combine the two. My ancestors were warriors and the original protectors of Country – predating Australian military. I’m indebted to people like my Dad, Grandad, and all those before me who fought so hard to provide the opportunities I have now as a First Nations ADF member. Defence hasn’t always been welcoming to our mob, with Australian policies actively excluding Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders from service and Torres Strait members being paid one-third the wage of their white peers of equal rank. I appreciate that I have more than my predecessors. I want to follow in their footsteps and ensure that if my nieces enlist when they grow up, our organisation is better for them and all those who follow. I’m fortunate to have worked in various Indigenous Affairs roles within Defence in addition to my enlisted role where I can contribute to these efforts.

I deployed on Operation Slipper in the Middle East at the same time as my Dad and Brother, which was exciting but definitely made for some nerve wracking moments. It was eye opening to see how each of our different roles came together to contribute to mission success and the bigger picture of keeping Australia safe. To date, we are the first known father-daughter-son to have deployed on the same military operation together.

As children, Mum always took me and Jase to watch Dad in different military parades. Since then we’ve grown up to serve together, deploy together and have proudly marched side by side together on multiple occasions – with Mum always there in support. In 2015 Dad, Jase and I had the honour of leading the ANZAC day parade in our hometown of Bowen to commemorate the ANZAC Centenary. Two years later, we joined other First Nations veterans (and my eldest niece Chanelle) to lead the National ANZAC parade in Canberra wearing Grandad’s medals – he was never awarded all his medals while he was alive. This occasion allowed us to honour him and all those who fought and died for our country but didn’t receive recognition of this service because of their heritage. Despite the pouring rain and icy cold, this was a privilege to be a part of.

Defence has afforded me many opportunities to work with my family and remain connected with culture and mob. A favourite was when Dad, Mum and I travelled home to the islands (2018) in our respective Defence roles to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion (TSLIB). The TSLIB is the only Indigenous battalion formed in Australia’s military history and had the highest rate of voluntary enlistment to the war effort (per population) in the world. Being able to experience how events during WWII impacted the Torres Strait and how they’re now incorporated into our Ailan culture through dance and song, keeping all those stories alive was incredible.

Another little highlight was working with my brother Jase on Defence Indigenous recruiting events and youth programs. I loved sharing our experiences and showing how we draw on culture as a strength to make us better in our role in Defence – rather than push it aside or hide it.

I’ve been extremely privileged to spend time with powerhouse Elders like Uncle Harry Allie BEM AM (inaugural Air Force Elder), Uncle Roy Mundine OAM (first Army Elder) and Aunty Lillian Noah (first Torres Strait woman to join the Air Force) and listen to their stories. I’m honoured to have worked with the Australian War Memorial, contributing to the “For Country, For Nation” exhibition and the “For Our Country” memorial pavilion. These projects help ensure the stories of First Nations service and contribution are recorded and remembered.

Another significant collaboration I achieved was commissioning Kalkadoon artist Chern’ee Sutton to create “Caina Putut, Ilya Wartanganha” (meaning Long ago, Today, Tomorrow”). This artwork was made especially for the Defence Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Network. It represents all our old people who have served in the past and mob who continue to serve in protection of our country. Our Defence stories told our way.

Service for me is a connection to three proud legacies. The Air Force legacy dating back to 1921, my family legacy – with the “Enchong” name sewn onto my uniform, and my (Torres Strait and Māori) cultural legacies and mana (spirit). Whenever my time is up, if I can look back and say that I’ve contributed to each of those three areas positively, then I’ll be happy.