Australian Penthouse talks to Program Manager for Australian Aid International, Nathan Mullins, about his new book, How to Amputate a Leg, lessons he’s learned during his time in the services, and why guys with samurai swords are usually wankers…
Explain your theory about wankers and samurai swords…
Eight of 10 people who own a samurai sword are wankers. If you have a samurai sword, unless you got it from your Grandad who took it from a dead Japanese officer in WWII, or you had it presented to you by a Japanese person as a token of esteem, or you are a genuine collector, then you’re a wanker. Oh, if you’re Japanese this all doesn’t apply.
I didn’t just dream this up – I saw it every time I came into somebody’s house on duty as a cop. If I saw a samurai sword hanging on the wall I could assume the owner was a card carrying member of the wanker’s association.
You have been a policeman, soldier, security consultant and an Australian Aid International volunteer. Out of these, which job did you find the most challenging?
I think all these jobs have their particular challenges, but the day-in, day-out grind of policing can be pretty hard on the individual and family. In the army I’ve had the most physical challenges and scariest situations, but I’ve been surrounded by a team of mates who are going through the same thing.
How did you become so interested in being in the Australian services?
I used to work in the trade union, and there I got a good feel for fairness and our Australian view of equality. Plus, charitable work had been a feature of my family life while I was growing up, and my Dad still seems to devote most of his spare time to charities.
What is the most shocking site you’ve ever seen?
I’ve been lucky. Every time I’ve been near a disaster or critical incident I’ve been working, so there’s no time for shock, you fall straight into your responsibility to help.
You went from being a policeman to helping in the Australian Aid International. What extra skills did you need to learn to be a part of this?
My police and military skills were really helpful, just knowing how to organise things and having an idea of personal security is very important. All disaster work is just project management – it’s just that the projects have a few more ‘variables’ to contend with eg. War, famine, disease, earthquake, flood etc.
What is the best lesson you’ve learnt from your time in the services?
Always have a spare pair of socks. If you have been in the field long enough, putting on a fresh pair of socks can feel like a full body massage.
Out of all the stories in our book, which one do you find is the funniest?
Probably my mate Dutchie scaring the crap out of two girls on the plane as we are about to parachute out by making them think he was losing his mind. The good thing is that nobody got hurt (if you don’t count the psychological damage to those two girls).
And which experience have you learnt the biggest lesson from?
Don’t go hunting for crocodiles armed only with a wooden spear, on a remote Papua New Guinean island in a muddy lagoon, or in an emergency, slow down, act cool and confident, and everyone around you will be cool and confident.
What have you been up to recently, and what’s coming up in the near future?
I’m still an International Program Manager for Australian Aid International, but I am actually back in the army on a very interesting short term contract, but I can’t say too much more about that. I am also working on another book and some other creative projects – hopefully you’ll hear from me again in 2010.