More Than Meets the Eye: Members of Defence Forces Share Stories at ‘Ink in the Lines’

The inked skin of Australia’s veterans tells tales far beyond the tattooed images. Their body art commemorates people, places, and moments that shaped their lives. Now, their stories are shared in the Redcliffe Museum exhibition Ink in the Lines – but the tattoos are just the opening through which broader military experiences and memories emerge.

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Throughout 2019, the Australian War Memorial captured the stories of Australia’s servicemen and women through interviews and photographic portraits. Many examples from this collection are now displayed in the touring Ink in the Lines exhibition, which can be viewed at the Redcliffe Museum from February 24-May 12.

One who helped launch the exhibit was Rob Douma, an award-winning artist, tattooist, and infantry veteran who deployed to Timor. 

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Rob (Photo credit:

Douma’s own skin bears many tattoos reflecting his travels and experiences, including in the Middle East. One in particular on his forearm displays an Arabic proverb about honesty. 

Douma explained its backstory is that a king would behead liars, but the deeper meaning for him is to live authentically and freely by being true to yourself and others. He felt an affinity with this concept of liberation through truthfulness.

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Douma’s artistic aptitude led him to open a tattoo studio, complementing his art career. His military background also enriches his tattoo work, as many clients are fellow veterans who open up and share their stories with someone who relates. Douma notes these conversations often go beyond the tattoo to illuminate connections through shared service.

Regarding the exhibition, Douma observes that whilst ostensibly focused on tattoos, it also draws out more expansive personal stories. As he says, the tattoo is just an entry point to tell meaningful tales of military experiences – the real heart of the project. 

Another meaningful tale was that of Bec, a former RAAF linguist who did a life-changing tour in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2007. As the only Australian embedded with a combined forces group at the massive Kandahar airbase, her deployment alongside allied nations was deeply impactful. 

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Bec (Photo credit:

She explained that for six months, from the moment she woke up to when she went to bed, she was constantly dealing with IEDs, rockets, death, war, Taliban, terrorism and insurgents. It was an unrelenting environment. 

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To honour this life-changing experience, Bec got a tattoo of the word “Kandahar” in Arabic – representing the place that so transformed her life and service. 

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To hear more of these moving stories and view the body art that inspired them, visit the Ink in the Lines exhibition at the Redcliffe Museum, Wednesday to Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and on weekends, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m until May 2024. 

Those moved by the stories can also participate by taking photos of their own commemorative or military tattoos and sharing them on social media with the hashtag #InkintheLines. 

Published 22-February-2024 

You’re Invited to ‘Utopia! And the Caravan Calamity’ at the Redcliffe Museum

Save the date and book some seats! On the 15th of May 2021, Observatory Theatre’s all-new production “Utopia! And the Caravan Calamity” will be played at Redcliffe Museum. The best part? It’s all free! 

Featuring a curious combination of tap dancing, interactive performers, gypsy jazz music, slapstick comedy, and dramatic eye-popping visuals, “Utopia! And the Caravan Calamity” aims to take full advantage of Redcliffe Museum’s new steampunk-themed exhibit, aptly titled “Brain Child”, which celebrates outlandish inventions and sheer imagination. 

Co-director Rory Cooper remarks that the world created within the show offers a heart-warming story of mateship and cooperation that will immerse the audience and rope them into the experience. 

“Audiences should expect to be immediately immersed into the world as some very skilled and enthusiastic actors embark on this journey,” says Mr Cooper. “The performance will take audiences on an adventure that is fun for the whole family.”

The story follows a group of oddballs on a faraway planet traveling aboard a rickety caravan towards paradise. Things don’t go as planned as the caravan collapses en route and the group is left stranded in a desolate wasteland. The only way out is to work together.

Photo credit: Observatory Theatre

Observatory Theatre director Lachlan Driscoll and choreographer Kara Fisher created “Utopia! And the Caravan Calamity.” The production also features set design by The Black Box Collective

Book a free ticket for the show on the 15th of May 2021 by visiting this website. The performance will run from 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

Observatory Theatre is an up-and-coming theatre company that aims to create meaningful and vibrant experiences for the audience in ways that conventional theatres do not. They specialise in transporting the audience into the world of their productions, making for interactive and immersive experiences that bend the boundaries of traditional theatre. To learn more about Observatory Theatre, visit their website here. Follow their social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram for the latest updates on deals, dates, events, and other special announcements concerning their productions.

Redcliffe Museum is at 75 Anzac Ave, Redcliffe.