Veteran Jess proud to feel and share Anzac Day reverence

RAN veteran Jess Sullivan 4.jpg

Former Royal Australian Navy Lieutenant Jess Sullivan feels a complex rise of emotions during the minute of dense silence at each Anzac Day service.

“There is that unique connection you get from having served, and for me Anzac Day is commemorating the original history, but also the more recent history,” the Torquay RSL sub-branch member says.

“Having lost shipmates to mental illness, and knowing a lot of people are still struggling post-service I think it’s important that we come together and demonstrate that we recognise what people have been through on behalf of this country.

“People don’t look at me and see a veteran. There is this young group of us who have experienced a lot, and it’s nice to know that people recognise that.

“That minute of silence, when you’ve got that many people together and you could hear a pin drop, just the level of reverence that comes from that can be overwhelming.”

Jess joined officer training at the Australian Defence Force Academy after having finished school at Wangaratta at 17, motivated in profound part by the example of her mother Trish, who was a proud army reservist.

“She passed away when I was quite young, so there was that desire to understand where she came from. She was with the transport corps so there are photos of her driving the vehicles, and as a country kid seeing a woman do those things it showed me there was a whole world out there that was possible,” Jess says.

“And I guess I had an innate desire to serve in some way. I’ve always been drawn to those kind of roles.”

She did not need to wait long to start seeing the world, assigned to HMAS Tobruk and deployed to the Middle East at barely 18.

“So as a trainee I was driving HMAS Tobruk through the Strait of Hormuz, and we did equipment drops for the guys in Afghanistan,” Jess says.

On return to Australia she graduated from the Australian Defence Force Academy. Her nine years of service included time as second in command of landing craft including HMAS Balikpapan before overseeing its decommissioning, and on patrol boats with Operation Sovereign Borders.

After finishing with the Royal Australian Navy, Jess worked in emergency services. She now consults in the disability sector, with focus on leadership and culture, and is a member of the Victorian Government’s Disability Worker Registration Board.

She also instructs yoga, at times for veterans.

“I’ve certainly got that resilience lens on when I’m teaching people,” she says.

As Anzac Day 2024 approaches Jess is looking forward to again being part of, and feeling, a nation’s appreciation for service and sacrifice.

“It is so nice to have people back together again,” Jess says.

“Amplifying that minute’s silence … goosebumps.”

Surf Coast Shire Council supports RSL sub-branch Anzac Day services across the shire.

2024 service details

  • Anglesea: 9.45am march from McMillan Street to Murray Street, followed by 10am service at the Anglesea Memorial Hall.
  • Lorne: 7am service Anzac Memorial Park, followed by gunfire breakfast at Lorne Bowls Club car park. 10.45am march from Lorne Visitor Information Centre to commemorative service at Anzac Memorial Park.
  • Torquay: 5.45am service at Point Danger, followed by gunfire breakfast.
  • Winchelsea: 10.30am service and wreath laying at Winchelsea Reserve, RSL clubrooms.

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