Capturing Army’s story through unique competition

Department of Defence

In 2023, serving Army members were invited to enter the inaugural Army Storytelling Competition with the theme ‘Why I Serve’ in response to the Chief of Army’s call to “tell Army’s story”.

The competition received 119 submissions from a cross-section of ranks and regions – all heartfelt stories on why they serve.

One entrant, Major Leigh Johansen, lent heavily on the old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” with his unique submission of a stick-figure comic. The creative move paid off – he and four others were crowned the competition winners.

The other four winners, Lieutenant Hannah-Georgia Williams, Lance Corporal Cody Faulkner, Lance Corporal Maryann Bon and Signaller Charlotte Beatty, all submitted personal reflections on their service that addressed why people joined the Army and why they continued to serve.

Major Johansen said by putting aside conventional military writing practices, human stories came out. Submitting his entry in comic form was a considered decision.

“I knew I wanted to submit something different, and it had to be a little unusual for the judges to be drawn to it,” Major Johansen said.

Entering a comic strip into the competition allowed him to reflect on his service in a light-hearted and fun way.

“The Army is such a large organisation, and not all decisions make sense at every level. The comic spoke to my service, and part of that service is knowing that some decisions need unpacking before the benefits become apparent.”

Following the announcement of the winners, Major Johansen worked with the Directorate of People and Culture to bring his comic to life in the form of a short animation, which was shared on social media.

“It really was amazing to see my work in animated form,” Major Johansen said.

“I’m so glad we stayed with the stick-figure style. It appeals to more people because everyone can see themselves in a stick figure. The whole team got behind the story and produced what I think is a quality piece of work.”

Major Johansen is currently working on a second comic in the same style. The new comic describes the importance of serving members recording their own history and their own reflections on Army culture.

As a member of the ADF Creative Arts Association, Major Johansen believes it is crucial for all serving members to tell their own story.

“Serving members telling their stories is the best way we can accurately capture who we are as an Army,” he said.

Major Johansen’s approach to his submission has paved the way for the next iteration of the Army Storytelling Competition.

This year’s competition will explore the concept of ‘Moments of Mateship’, asking members what mateship means to them and will expand to include three categories: short stories, photography and other creative works.

More details on the 2024 competition will be available soon.

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