Keith and Florence Payne with Ray Martin, Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady Cosgrove at Admiralty House in Sydney for the documentary An Australian Hero.
Keith and Florence Payne with Ray Martin, Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady Cosgrove at Admiralty House in Sydney for the documentary An Australian Hero. Supplied

Keith Payne doco reveals more beyond bravery of war

MACKAY war hero Keith Payne VC will be in the spotlight when a new documentary premieres on SBS tonight.

Acclaimed journalist Ray Martin chronicles the life of Australia's oldest living recipient of the Victoria Cross and his ongoing fight for support for veterans and those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder in An Australian Hero: Keith Payne VC.

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The hour-long program was filmed in Mackay, the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and Kununurra in northern WA - where Payne presented overdue medals to indigenous members of the Australian Border Force (formerly Norforce).

"I went up to Mackay several times to speak with Keith and Flo and their boys. Most recently, we came up to show the last cut (of the doco) to the local community. We're almost familiar faces in Mackay," Martin told the Daily Mercury.

Ray Martin and Keith Payne at the preview of the documentry on Keiths life.
Ray Martin and Keith Payne at the preview of the documentry on Keiths life. Tony Martin

There's no better host for the first long-form TV feature on Payne. Martin first interviewed the decorated Vietnam Vet nearly 40 years ago.

"I spoke to him for Midday way back in the '80s," he said.

"Then for the 20th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War - I was reporting for A Current Affair in those days - I went with Keith and one of his sons back to Vietnam.

"It was the first time he'd gone back since he'd got his VC and we've remained very good friends after that."

Ray Martin interviews Florence and Keith Payne for the TV documentary An Australian Hero: Keith Payne VC.
Ray Martin interviews Florence and Keith Payne for the TV documentary An Australian Hero: Keith Payne VC. Supplied

An Australian Hero not only recounts Payne's bravery on the battlefield, but how Payne emerged from the darkness of alcohol and PTSD that threatened to destroy his marriage and family to inspire veterans and school kids alike.

"When you read his citation (for the VC), it's bravery gone mad," Martin said.

"What we try to show is he's probably done more since he was awarded the VC than in the war.

Portrait of Victoria Cross recipient, Warrant Officer 2 Keith Payne in 1969. Accession Number LES/69/0593/VN
Portrait of Victoria Cross recipient, Warrant Officer 2 Keith Payne in 1969. Australian War Memorial

"He's led this campaign for service men and women at a time when he should have retired and be enjoying his sunset views - he's unstoppable. He deserves to be recognised.

"This is not a doco about the war; it's about a remarkable bloke."

An Australian Hero: Keith Payne VC airs Wednesday, May 27 at 8.30pm on SBS-TV.