Vanessa Lee Cheu
Kuku Warra/Kuku Possum/Ewaimain
Leading Seaman
Royal Australian Navy

Australian Defence Medal

I am a Kuku Warra/Possum woman from Laura, Far North Queensland, but grew up in the small mining town of Chillagoe, Queensland. There weren’t a lot of job opportunities in my hometown. You either worked in the mines or on a cattle station. After doing odd seasonal farming jobs I decided to do a Community Development Employment Program (CDEP). With the encouragement of the CEO of CDEP, I applied for a business administration traineeship role with Centrelink, now known as Services Australia. I was employed at Centrelink for 13 years. It wasn’t until 2015 that I realised I needed a new career with fresh challenges and experiences, which is why I joined the Defence Indigenous Development Program. First Nations individuals have a fantastic opportunity to experience life in the military through this program. This program has fostered an atmosphere of self-development, confidence and independence.

I’ve had the awesome opportunity to play rugby league and union with ADF and Navy. During this experience, I travelled, took part in the South Pacific Rugby League tour, and attended numerous community outreach events. The highlight of my career is being a part of the Navy Indigenous Bungaree Dance Troupe. In addition to serving my country, it has showcased my culture on the world stage.

Keeping culture strong.