HMAS Canberra returned to Australia today following its successful maiden deployment to Fiji in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Winston’s cleanup, leaving behind about 200 personnel and their equipment.
CAPTION: An Australian Army Backhoe gathers debris to be buried as a part of the clean up process of Operation Fiji Assist. Photo by Able Seaman Chris Beerens
Minister for Defence Marise Payne said that following a request from the Fijian government, HMAS Canberra was deployed to Fiji on 1 March to deliver much-needed humanitarian aid and assistance.
“HMAS Canberra was loaded with 60 tonnes of emergency relief supplies, three MRH-90 helicopters and around 760 Australian Defence Force personnel including engineers, carpenters, electricians and plumbers,” she said.
“Australian forces worked closely with Fijian authorities to conduct recovery efforts and engineering assessments.”
Minister Payne said that at the further request of the Fijian government, around 200 Defence personnel had remained in Fiji when Canberra left, as a Suva-based humanitarian-assistance and disaster-relief force.
“Four MRH-90 helicopters from Townsville’s 5th Aviation Regiment also remained to support Fiji’s National Disaster Management Office.”
HMAS Canberra is unloading Queensland-based personnel and equipment in Brisbane today before arriving in Sydney later this week.
Minister Payne thanked the families of the men and women deployed to Fiji under Operation Fiji Assist for their support, but made no apology or excuse for the dearth of information about their mission over the past six weeks.
Recent comments on CONTACT’s Facebook page have highlighted soldier, sailor and airmen’s frustrations at the lack of knowledge in Australia about the work they are doing in Fiji.
“WTF!! Are the Aussies even in this gig?” One guy said after reading yet another NZDF post on CONTACT.
“First ADF media tells us bugger all, now the RFMF Commander doesn’t make mention of our contribution or service. Strange and sad,” he concluded.
Over the past six weeks, Minister Payne has released four media statements (two about Canberra’s end of mission) plus just three stories from the ADF – while the New Zealand Defence Force has pumped out 15 stories plus two from their minister.