Geraldton man rises to cross-country challenge for some beer

Francesca MannGeraldton Guardian
Brian Millett and his trusty 1985 ute.
Camera IconBrian Millett and his trusty 1985 ute. Credit: Francesca Mann, The Geraldton Guardian

Brian Millett, 86, isn’t one to turn down a challenge, especially when it involves an epic adventure across Australia and a tantalising prize.

Last month Mr Millett, accompanied by granddaughter Utikka Millett, 20, drove his 1985 Toyota Hilux ute from Geraldton to Queensland and back again, a 7673km round trip, for a carton of beer and bragging rights.

The ex-serviceman was at his annual 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment reunion in Queensland last October when his friend, known only as Pat, threw down the gauntlet.

“He said my ute wouldn’t make it to Queensland, but I knew I’d make it,” Mr Millett said. “Utikka was with me at the reunion and she said ‘I’m coming too, Pop!’”

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The father-of-four is no stranger to the long drive across Australia, having travelled around the country in a caravan “four or five times” with wife June.

After paying a visit to his mechanic, Mr Millett picked up his granddaughter in Perth and on May 7, the pair hit the road.

Just five days later they arrived in Coolangatta, Queensland, and Mr Millett gleefully accepted his prize, a carton of Great Northern, from a very surprised Pat.

“He said, ‘I didn’t think you’d come’,” Mr Millett said.

“We had three days there so I went and saw a couple of army mates. It was good to catch up with them. It was definitely worth it. I’d do it again.

“The grandkids reckon if I go again they’ll have to take a raffle.

“They’re all putting their hand up to come with me next time.”

Mr Millett said goodbye to his granddaughter, who lives in Queensland, and headed for home, this time accompanied by his daughter, Helena Millett, who they picked up on their way through New South Wales.

Despite a few hiccups along the way, including a tank of dirty fuel and a few cold nights, Mr Millett, who served 12 months in Korea and two years in Malaya, said the whole trip went smoothly.

“The first three days it was all fog and rain,” he said. “We only had one warm day.

“There’s quite a lot to see, and on the wheat silos they’ve got all these murals on them which are absolutely beautiful.

“One place had a cocky made out of fibreglass, it must have been 60ft tall.

“We had a very good trip … and Utikka was a terrific little driver and navigator.”

During the trip, the grandfather-of-seven spent $2109 just on petrol.

When he’s not gallivanting around the country, Mr Millett, a member of Geraldton Legacy Group, can often be found time-keeping games for the Brigades Football Club, his local team since 1946.

Although his playing days are over, Mr Millett continues to support the club, even using the road trip to find new players with a hand-painted sign on the back of his ute.

Brian Millett’s hand-painted sign on the back of his ute calling for new players to join the Brigades Football Club. Mr Millett first joined the club in 1946.
Camera IconBrian Millett’s hand-painted sign on the back of his ute calling for new players to join the Brigades Football Club. Mr Millett first joined the club in 1946.

After four days of driving without spotting any potential footy players, Mr Millett thought he’d struck gold when they reached Peterborough, a small town in South Australia.

“There was a football reunion on and I thought we’d get a player,” he said.

“But the youngest was probably about 80 and the rest were all older than me!”

Mr Millett said he was looking forward to going back to Queens-land in October for the next reunion, but this time he’ll fly.

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