Tracy Lei (Makoti)
Nation – Kulkalgal nation
Clan – Marawadai
Tribe – Cassowary
Communication Information Systems Sailor (CIS)
Royal Australian Navy (RAN)


Medals and Awards
Australian Defence Medal

 

I grew up on Yam Island, called Yama or Iama in the Kulkalgau Ya language, a small island in the Torres Strait. I was raised by my Aunty Thelma Kepa and Uncle Richard Kepa whom I call Mum and Dad out of respect. I was raised under a big Mehkay tree with my cousins Roy Kepa, Sheena Kepa (in-law), Harry Kepa, Nathan Kepa, Melora Kepa, Ted Kepa and Zuma Kepa. Every Sunday, I would help my mum do Sunday school or set up and clean the church for our Sunday services. I love going to church. It has definitely been a big part of my life and still is.

I enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy on the 16th of January 2017 as a CIS (Communications and Information Systems) sailor. I had always wanted to join the Navy since Primary School. I was influenced by my uncle Clayford Lui who is a Sergeant in the Army. But I wanted to join the Navy because I grew up around the salt water, and I knew it would remind me of home, no matter how far away I was from my home on Yam Island.

After 16 months at HMAS Cerberus, completing Basic and Initial training, I finally received my first posting to DEFCOMMSTA Sydney (DCS-SYD – now FSD). After only two weeks in the fleet as a fresh seaman, I volunteered to be loan posted as part of the ship’s company on HMAS Canberra III (CNX), which was conducting Tri-Service exercises with the Army and Air Force as part of the Australian Task Group (ATG). During my time onboard, CNX was part of the Task Group that took part in the first ever Regional Presence Deployment (RPD) in 2020.

I then volunteered to extend my deployment and served on HMAS Hobart III for RIMPAC 2020. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, this was a no step deployment, meaning we could not go ashore. During this trip, I advanced my knowledge and skills as a CIS sailor on the Bridge and COMMCEN (Communications Centre). This deployment was my longest and a tough one for many of us, but we all got there in the end. When 2021 came around, I was posted to HMAS Cairns, and during this time, I also underwent surgery. It was a quiet time in my career, but little did I know I would meet the love of my life, my husband Johnson Makoti.

Currently, I am serving at HMAS Harman as a Watchkeeper and have also been involved with the Navy’s Indigenous Dance Group, Bungaree, since 2023. My husband and I are now happily married and raising our niece Kathy Sagigi together with our dogs Mushu and Mulan in Canberra, ACT – and we love it here. I always strive to be the best I can be at work, at home, and when I’m back home on Yam Island. The ADF has given me so many life experiences and skills and looked after my family as well as myself. I aspire to be a Regional Indigenous Development Coordinator (RIDC) here in Canberra in the near future. Only time will tell! Thank you for reading my story and God Bless.