Personal and CONTACT credentials as Defence reporters
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CAPTION: Kylie Minogue gets a pick-me-up from then Corporal Brian Hartigan in East Timor, reporting for ARMY News in 1999.
My personal bio:
CONTACT is a hobby, a passion – an obsession – that started out as a proper business way back in 2003.
For health reasons, I gave up trying to make the business work as a business, about 2015.
These days, it’s just this great big wonderful hole I’ve dug myself into – and I love it.
My long-suffering wife, Rosie, does the bookkeeping, but aside from that, CONTACT is your classic one-man-band (though I did recently con a volunteer helper to pitch in 😉 – and benefit from much contributed content from around the country and even the world (you can send your stuff too)).
I enlisted in the Australian Army as an aircraft fitter in November 1990, and corps transferred to ARMY Newspaper in 1998 (more details below).
I transferred from the full-time Army to the Active Reserve in 2002 and and finally pulled the pin in 2021.
When I left the full-time Army in 2002, I worked for five years with the Australian Federal Police as Editor of Platypus, their professional police journal, and as a PR photographer. This included a force-assigned deployment on the first rotation of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands – RAMSI (hence why I wear a Police Overseas Service Medal on my ‘rack’).
My time with the AFP coincided with the birth of CONTACT magazine, which was produced with the assistance of one partner (no longer involved) as a sideline to what was a pretty full-on day job.
After a short break from the AFP, I went back to Defence, as a civilian, for about three years, fulfilling roles (for various lengths of time) including Editor RAAF Newspaper, Chief of Staff Defence Newspapers and Media Operations Officer in Defence HQ.
I recently dabbled as the ‘boss’ of the CONTACT Soldier On Veteran H.E.L.P. Centre in Kiama NSW – but that didn’t last long.
I am on the high side of 50 years old, married to Rosie, with two adult daughters, two granddaughters and one son-in-law.
My wife and I both speak with remnants of Irish accents, but we’ve lived in Australia longer than we lived in Ireland.
The CONTACT backstory:
After school, I worked hard as a dairy farmer, car washer, furniture removalist, taxi driver, lawnmower and other ‘odd jobs’ before being ‘called’ to something bigger.
At age 27, I joined the Australian Army (full time) in November 1990 (15 Platoon at Kapooka)(more than 30 years ago!!!) and served as an aircraft fitter (helicopter mechanic) at 162 Recce Sqn, followed by a year at 5th Aviation Regiment, in Townsville, until 1997.
I was a ‘keen, green’ soldier who participated in Brigade Mil Skills and shooting competitions and loved going bush. One year, our 162 Recce Sqn Mil Skills Team came within 0.1% of winning the 3 Brigade comp – which means we were barely beaten into second place by 1RAR – which means 2/4RAR and the other arms-corps units of 3 Brigade were behind us! – and by a good margin.
I also won the unit Soldier of the Year trophy – which I only mention because, as a prize, our OC organised with a mate in the Officers’ Mess for me to go to Thailand with 1RAR as a grunt in an infantry section – where I was eventually accepted as at least ‘competent’ by my section colleagues.
I mention Thailand too because, on that trip, everyone I shared a gun pit with said something along the lines, “This trip is so awesome, someone should write to ARMY News about it“. But, it was obvious that no one else was going to volunteer to do the writing. So I did.
I submitted a feature story to ARMY News – where, if you’re familiar with the process, they ‘butchered’ it to turn it into a ‘news report’.
At the same time, I also offered the story to The Northern Services Courier – a free military ‘rag’ – who published it without changing a thing, and gave me a ‘By Line’.
I was chuffed – and I was hooked.
For the next 18 months, I never missed getting something published in every single issue of The Northern Services Courier, plus a handful of things in ARMY News.
I also went down to Canberra, twice, to spend two separate fortnights at Army Newspaper Unit to learn how they wanted me to write better to suit their needs.
Then, eventually, a vacancy came up at Army Newspaper Unit and I applied.
I was rejected for that position – and for another one a few months later – but eventually got selected when the third-picked guy (who happened to be in the same unit as me – 5 Avn Regt) broke his writing arm (I swear I had nothing to do with that 😉 ).
Rejected three times!
Was I crap? I don’t think so – and I think I turned out OK in the end.
Was I a pain in the arse? Probably.
But, persistence paid off and I was posted to Army Newspaper Unit in January 1998.
Long story short – less than five years later, they took away our unit status, civilianised the editor’s job and gutted morale.
In the end, I was a sergeant on higher-duties allowance for WO2 doing the vacant captain’s job and, even though it was allowed in the rules, they refused to post me, as a sergeant, into the captain’s position so that we could recruit a new reporter to relieve the pressure.
I kicked up so much fuss in the process, they eventually ‘offered’ me a corporal reporter’s job at RAAF Newspaper (which never had a reporter before that) and tried to convince me that it was ‘a new opportunity, not a demotion’ – yeah right!
I pulled the pin instead and transferred to the Active Reserve, in May 2002.
You might get some idea of the pain this caused me when I tell you that I honestly decided on about day three at Kapooka that I was going to be a ‘career soldier’ – and had eyes on the Editor’s job at ARMY News from early on too. Now here I was, in only my 12th year in the Army, being forced to quit by a weasel civilian editor who didn’t know shit from clay about anything military.
But, thankfully, the job I moved on to was awesome too – Editor of Platypus (the professional police journal of the Australian Federal Police) and the first ever PR photographer for the AFP. But that’s a story for another day.
About a year after leaving ARMY News, a corporal who was still working there told me the weasel civvie editor was shutting down ARMY Magazine (which all the reporters loved, because it was the main reason we got to go out in the field, to do in-depth reporting) – and they were shutting it down because Mr Weasel cried “staffing issues“.
So, that corporal and I decided to start CONTACT Magazine, mainly as a “fuck you – just two staff members could do it if they really wanted to – and do a better job – on our own time, with our own money, as a hobby, in secret”.
So we did.
And when, with great pleasure, I handed that weasel editor the first ever issue of CONTACT, in March 2004, he ran straight to his boss to plot shuting us down!!!
Now, more than 19 years later, CONTACT is still here (though formats continually change) (and my corporal partner-in-crime has moved on).
Mr Weasel civvie editor is long gone too. And so is ARMY Magazine.
But I’m still here.
And still a pain in their arse 😉
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16 thoughts on “Personal and CONTACT credentials as Defence reporters”
Thank you for the many great reads. On a sad note: Tommy Moore got Knighted, but, Teddy Sheehan got slighted.
You’re a poet Mr Kirby.
Thank you Brian,, for your article on the battle against the civvy editor,, so many times in my 30 year career I too battled against military and civilian negative people. Thank u for doing such a great job. and being a Pilatius Porter fan from the 80s ,,am looking forward to the article on that plane,,
ex Oakey vite
PS thank u for doing the article on Beau Pridue who was my roomate when he was killed when we were on deployment in Timor in 2011.
Great to read how Contact magazine started.
FairPlay Brian, sometimes things need to be said and done, and they don’t always happen from within the organisation too. Best of luck to Contact and yourself, it’s a great magazine.
Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald
Editor of An Cosantóir (The Defender) The Irish Defence Forces Magazine
Thanks Wayne. Much appreciated.
First time reader – loved your response!
As an ex “Oakeyite” (avionics), Pilatus Porter vintage person, it is good to see ex-tradies kick goals in other fields.
Thanks Steve. I have a cool story about a Pilatus Porter I’ll get around to one day.
Good on ya Brian, it was refreshing to see someone like you, take the bit between your teeth and stand up to these yobbo’s.
And by the way your Credentials look bloody awesome, just like the Contact magazine.
Keep up the good work as I look forward to each issue of the mag.
Keep chipping away at it Brian. You have more of a support base than you realise, all the blokes look forward to every edition of Contact, we are just not very good at standing up and saying it out loud.
I was a soldier in a different time when all media releases were vetted by the US to ensure their slant on news (lies) were acceptable. It was the greatest time in my life being in the military. whilst all that was more than 40 years ago I now enjoy reading your work and thank you for keeping me and many other up to date with general military news. Many of the larger news organisations only print stuff that allows them to show their side in the best light or the side they don’t support in the worst light. Proper information is what is needed not alternative news
Great read Brian and a great CV. Keep up the top work, would be great if you could somehow build Contact into a more substantial operation.
And 15 years later many of us still read every article and hang out for the next one!
Thanks Dave. I really, really appreciate you saying so.
Too true, look forward of a great read every time