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Tamara Sloper-Harding OAM | 51 | Royal Australian Navy

Tamara Sloper-Harding OAM | 51 | Royal Australian Navy

Served 18.5 years

Lieutenant Commander

Medals and citations: I think the Interfet medal and active service medal for my time in East Timor in 1999 means the most to me because it set me on a path that changed my whole life. I ended up founding a charity in Timor Leste and go back several times a year. That all led to me receiving an OAM for work in Timor.

Primary job: Intelligence Officer

“My service made me who I am and gave me opportunities to really do something practical to help others and make an impact on the world. It set me on a path to helping others for the rest of my life.”

  • Founder of Friends of Soibada
  • Vice President Avalon Beach RSL Sub Branch

If you could impart any words of wisdom from yourself and/or any of your fallen comrades, what would it be? What would they want future generations to know? Your team, the people you serve with become like family when you are deployed. It is a relationship that you will never have with civilians. We should all appreciate what we have in Australia far more than we do. We are so lucky.

Until you have seen war and experienced a lot of the horror there is so much you don’t understand about things like refugees, poverty, self sacrifice. Sometimes I wish that civilians could understand and appreciate the sacrifices servicemen make for our freedom and peace.

Where did you spend the majority of time in service? A number of different places all over Australia and the world but Timor Leste was the place that changed my life.

What do you want people to remember about your service? That I cared more about others than myself. That I was an approachable empathetic leader but stronger and tougher than I looked. I was very unconventional.

What was the best and worst 'military' food you were served, and why? Luncheon meat type E from a ration pack. It looked like Pal dog food. I swapped my tins for toilet paper usually.

Funny recollection during time of service:

In Bougainville I was in a helicopter that had to make a sudden emergency landing in the jungle. I always carried craft projects, crochet or something in my pockets because I hated wasting time when we had to wait for something to happen. So when we were stuck in the jungle for several hours I pulled out my crochet to fill the time. I also had pockets full of Robert Timms coffee bags so made a brew for all the guys. 

After a while locals started coming out of the scrub with things to sell us. So I bought a couple of baskets (for the crochet to go in) and some sarongs that had “NSW Rugby” on them. This was the third time I had been in an emergency helo landing. As we flew back in the rescue chopper I heard the guys saying how they would never fly with me again but wasn’t it amazing that in the middle of nowhere I still managed to have coffee, do craft and go shopping.

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