Joint Media Statement
Acting Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Indigenous Affairs Senator the Hon. Nigel Scullion
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs The Hon. Dan Tehan MP
Member for Leichhardt The Hon. Warren Entsch MP
The Australian Government has paid tribute to Mr Jerry Stephen Snr, a distinguished Torres Strait Islander war veteran who passed away last month.
Mr Stephen Snr was believed to be the oldest surviving Torres Strait Islander veteran from World War II.
Mr Stephen Snr enlisted as a Private in the Citizen Military Forces in December 1942, helping to protect Australia’s northern coastline from attack during World War II through his service with the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion – the only Indigenous battalion ever to be formed in Australian military history.
In 1944, nearly every man in the Torres Strait was a member of the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion – and in Mr Stephen Snr’s family alone, four of his brothers were also enlisted.
Mr Stephen Snr had a highly-decorated military career and his passing is a reminder of the service and sacrifice made by the men and women who serve in our defence forces.
He was awarded the 1939-45 Star, the Defence Medal, the War Medal 1939-45 and the Australia Service Medal 1939-45 for his service in the Torres Strait Islands during the period of the Japanese bombing campaign.
Following his service in the military, Mr Stephen Snr returned to his family at Ugar – also known as Stephen Island – in the Torres Strait and continued in the fisheries industry before commencing a career in the Queensland Police Service. Mr Stephen Snr served as the Ugar Police Sergeant for more than two decades.
Dedicated to his community, Mr Stephen Snr served several terms as a councillor on the Ugar Community Council, advocating for education, health and native title rights. Following his retirement, Mr Stephen Snr continued his community work and remained a faithful warden of the Anglican Church on Ugar.
Mr Stephen Snr passed away in Cairns in Far North Queensland. The Australian Army supported his family to repatriate his body back to his traditional home of Ugar, where a funeral was held for him today.
The Government extends its deepest condolences to Mr Stephen Snr’s family and the broader Torres Strait community.