Reporting from the Front Lines

Anita Jaensch
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Watching Darren Curtis on the Nine News bulletin, few people would realise that he lives a double life. But behind the façade of mild-mannered reporter, Darren is also a Captain in the Australian Army Reserve.

DARREN is currently attached to the Training and Preparedness Unit in Canberra, where he combines his two areas of expertise and provides specialist training to Defence personnel on how to handle media engagements. Born and raised on the New South Wales Central Coast, Darren took the well-worn path to a career in journalism – starting as a copy boy at the Daily Mirror in Sydney, before taking roles in radio and then television.
He was already well established in his career and had a young family when he joined the Reserves in 1996. Reporting on various military engagements stoked his interest in serving himself.

“My grandmother’s brothers served during WWII, but, on my father’s side, nobody had ever served in the military,” Darren said. “It became a great source of pride, for my father particularly.

“Of course, when you say you’re off to a conflict, that brings with it all the fears of what’s going to happen to your son and what might happen to his family if things go wrong. That took the gloss off it, but he accepts that that’s part of the deal.”
Darren Curtis dangling from a rotor blade

Darren has done two overseas deployments, in Iraq in 2005 and Afghanistan in 2008. In recounting his experiences, the thing that comes across most strongly is Darren’s respect for his fellow servicemen and women.

“I saw how young service members took on such responsibility with such discipline, and they delivered perfectly every single time. When people from the outside are exposed to that they come away with a fantastic appreciation of what we’re doing.”
During his first overseas deployment, Darren covered one of the entertainment tours, where Australian artists volunteer their time to entertain the troops. He said the experience opened the performers’ eyes to the reality of what Australian troops were facing in the Middle East.

“I was there with Beccy Cole when she first went. She was so moved by the experience that she came home and wrote the song ‘Poster Girl’ to tell Australians that you don’t have to support the wars or the conflicts themselves, but you need to support our service people,” Darren said.

As a journalist, Darren has often had the opportunity to raise awareness of the role our service people are playing in conflict zones and peacekeeping missions, overseas and at home. But it’s not all live crosses; his military service has also had its share of tough times.

When a soldier he knew died on duty, Darren was called on to liaise with the media.
Darren Curtis - Reporting from the front lines  
“It was quite tough to be the buffer between the community and his family, but I could approach the media from a professional standpoint and explain to them what this meant to the family. They had incredible pride in his service and wanted to tell the world how proud they were of him.”
Although Darren had long been aware of the work of RSL (Queensland), he didn’t join the League until after he returned from his first overseas tour in 2005.
“I didn’t believe that I deserved to be a member of the RSL until I did active service,” Darren said. “I didn’t think that I could stand alongside men who had actually walked the hard yards.”
On his return, Darren became a member at the Surfers Paradise Sub Branch, but his work commitments prevented him taking an active role until recently.

“I’ve created a space within my life to be able to dedicate as much time as I can to the RSL. There is a need for my generation and below to step into roles with the RSL in all capacities.
  “I’m not active in the sense that I turn up to the Sub Branch and do things for them. I use the skillset that I have away from being a serviceman. So, I host a lot of functions, act as an unofficial ambassador and try to present the RSL in a positive light. I’m also a bit of a campaigner for getting younger veterans involved. Because I know that if I do need to reach out and ask for help in any capacity, the RSL will be there for me; I’m not alone.”

On May 31, Darren again put his presenting skills at RSL’s service, emceeing the Indigenous Veterans’ Ceremony at Brisbane’s Shrine of Remembrance.
Darren Curtis - Indigenous Veterans Ceremony
Darren Curtis has emceed the Indigenous Veterans' Ceremony for several years.
“I’ve got a bit of passion there as well. My wife has Indigenous heritage and her grandfather served in WWII. I’m glad that it’s taken on some significance now within the schedules of commemoration. It was part of our history that went unnoticed for many years and didn’t get the recognition it deserves. But they still bled and died like other folk.”

Having emceed the Indigenous Veterans’ Ceremony for several years, Darren said he is struck by one aspect in particular.

“There’s something hauntingly beautiful when they play the didgeridoo at the Shrine. And when they see the symbol of the Shrine, the Flame of Remembrance, and they see an Indigenous man playing the didgeridoo in front of that Shrine, the city stops. That’s something that’s striking in a city when we’re all so busy and no one wants to stop for anything. On that day, people take time.”