Rob Douma has been telling stories through art since he was a child.
“As long as I can remember I’ve always been fairly creative, and drawing and painting were always things I did,” he said.
“My mum’s still got a pillowcase I designed with little army men all over it … and tanks and stuff...
“A lot of my artwork has been about telling stories, whether it’s mine or others’. It’s given me a voice and a vehicle to talk about all the experiences I had in my own decade in the military, and my own years in Afghanistan...
“And I’m still telling stories.”
In 2018, the former soldier and now Townsville-based artist won the Australian War Memorial’s inaugural Napier Waller Art Prize — the first national art prize offered exclusively to servicemen and servicewomen — for his work, Green on Blue: the betrayal of trust.
“At the end of the day, I’m just extremely grateful to the Memorial for having the vision to start this prize,” he said.
“I think art can be incredibly important and powerful … and I can see really strong positive things coming out of it, not just for the veterans in terms of art therapy, but with military stories in general.
“Even as a veteran with 15 years’ experience, you can’t know and see everything, so to see these different stories from different aspects of defence was really educational for me … but what I really got out of it was meeting these other veteran artists and developing these strong bonds with them.”