Striving to be the best you can be seems to run in Private Shernel Banjo’s family.

The mother of five holds down a full-time job and then finds time to serve with the 51st Far North Queensland Regiment (51 FNQR).

Her dedication to family, employer and country is reminiscent of the determination of her Olympian cousin Cathy Freeman.

Currently on leave from her role working in health care with the Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council, Private Banjo has been working with other reservists from 51 FNQR to support the Queensland Police Service at movement control points to protect Indigenous communities from COVID-19.

“We are very passionate about our land, and joining the Reserves has been very rewarding,” Private Banjo said.

“I can share my knowledge of the land and learn additional skills that I can also pass on.”

Private Banjo was recently chosen to receive further training as a medic. 

“I particularly enjoy being a medic in the unit,” she said.

“The additional training has been really good, but the hardest thing is leaving your family and kids.

“It never gets any easier, but with what I learn and bring back it is worth it. My mum looks after my girls and I’m glad about that. She is a teacher- she taught me and she also is now teaching some of her great grand kids!”

Private Banjo is particularly proud of her eldest child, who is in his final year of a nursing degree and looking forward to following his mother into a career in health care.

However, her nine-year-old daughter is also capturing attention in another field that may run in the family’s genes.

A while back the champion sprinter Cathy Freeman dropped into Kowanyama with her own mother to trace her family tree and it was then that Private Banjo discovered they were related.

“That was a spin-out, a real privilege meeting my cousin Cathy - she is so lovely,” Private Banjo said.

“Hopefully my daughter will follow in her quick footsteps. She broke a record last year for the 100 metre sprint that was last set the year she was born - 2010.”