A childhood spent surrounded by water has led to a life on the water for one exceptional Torres Strait islander.
Raised on Badu Island, also known as Mulgrave Island, at the northern tip of Queensland, Royal Australian Navy sailor Esha Nona is serving in HMAS Perth, the Australian warship assigned to the multinational Combined Maritime Forces conducting maritime security and countering terrorism patrols in the Middle East Region.
Joining the Royal Australian Navy in 2012, Able Seaman Boatswain’s Mate Esha Nona spent one year in the Defence Indigenous Development Program (DIDP) and previously served in patrol boats HMA Ships Glenelg, Maryborough and Wollongong.
“DIDP was about learning new skills, adapting into a new lifestyle change, facing physical and emotional challenges everyday, making friends and travelling,” she said.
“I joined the Navy because I felt like a change of lifestyle – to get away from home and see the world outside of the Torres Straits."
“It was also a rewarding opportunity for my fellow Indigenous brothers and sisters who joined with me that year and have had a taste of what military lifestyle is like.”
Serving in a ship’s company of some 190 personnel, Esha is trained as a small arms weapon operator and helmsman.
She also supports the ship’s operations room by monitoring the surface surveillance picture.
Her current home onboard the Navy’s first Anzac-class upgraded Anti-Ship Missile Defence frigate to deploy to Operation MANITOU is quite different from growing up in Torres Strait.
Coming from a family of eight brothers and one sister, Esha said the traditional owners of the Island are Mura Badgulgal and her background comprises Torres Strait Islander, Felesia Western Samoa, and a mixed heritage of Dutch and Melanesian.
“It’s sad to think how far away my Island home is and how I keep moving further and further away but I always reflect on how far I’ve come,” Esha said.
“I know my family and close friends are proud of my achievements."
“I tend to always out think the bad and surround myself with positive people who motivate and bring out the best of me.”
Esha is also a keen sportswoman who has played for Navy and ADF Rugby teams.
Although given the opportunity to visit the United States with the Armed Services Rugby Union side, Esha opted to stay on board Perth to take part in this deployment.
“I have a large family and many of them are in the Navy but it was important for me to focus on the Operation which meant putting aside the Rugby trip to the States,” she said.
“I feel very lucky to be part of this Operation and making a contribution.”
Operation MANITOU is the current name for the Australian Government’s contribution to the multinational CMF efforts to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the region.
This is Perth’s first deployment to the MER and the 63rd rotation of a RAN vessel in the region since 1990.