Royal Australian Navy nursing officer Lieutenant Donna Miller was destined for a life at sea.
Born in Fiji and moving to Australia at the age of three, Lieutenant Miller’s great-great-grandfather Ratu Loaloadravu Tubuanakoro was one of the renowned Lasakau Sea Warriors, from the island of Bau, who ruled parts of the Pacific in the 19th century.
In 1827, French Captain Dumont D’Urville invited Tubuanakoro on board his ship Astrolabe to learn from the Fijian’s renowned navigational skills and knowledge of the waters around the Fiji archipelago.
So impressed was the French captain that he had her great-great-grandfather’s portrait painted while on the ship, a copy of which survives in the ship’s journals.
More recent family history in Savusavu on the island of Vanua Levu has maintained the maritime connection, with her grandfather well known for his boat-building acumen and her father working as a maritime engineer before arriving in Australia.
And now Lieutenant Miller is honouring the family heritage in Navy, with her first deployment as part of the Maritime Operational Health Unit embarked on HMAS Canberra for Operation Vanuatu Assist.
“In Fiji we’re known as ‘Kai Wai’, or sea people, and that’s one of the reasons I was drawn to Navy over the other services,” Lieutenant Miller said.
As for the nursing, Lieutenant Miller was inspired by her mother’s efforts with her sick brother growing up, as well as an early career in the disability sector.
“My brother had a kidney issue and my mother nursed him throughout, so that influenced me in my choice of career,” she said.
She completed her Bachelor of Nursing at Central Queensland University, twice winning awards for her outstanding work during clinical placements with Queensland Health and Townsville University Hospital.
She joined Navy in February 2022 and sees her first deployment to Vanuatu as an opportunity to put all aspects of her career and heritage to the task.
She has been working with officials from the Vanuatu Ministry of Health and the Vanuatu Police Force on board Canberra to ensure vital medical supplies are delivered to the areas of the country they are most needed.
“I am very privileged to be here and able to assist, given my cultural background, to help establish relationships between the ADF and also the Vanuatu people to make sure we achieve our mission of assisting the Vanuatu Government and providing help where we can,” she said.
“Military service is such a big part of our lives and in Fiji to serve is the highest honour.”