Fijian dignitaries and troops have formally farewelled Australian Defence Force personnel who have provided humanitarian support and undertaken disaster relief work following Tropical Cyclone Winston.
For almost two months ADF personnel have delivered critical aid supplies to the people of Fiji and helped to repair schools, community centres and hospitals.
Over the next week around 200 Defence members will return to Australia.
The Task Force Commander for Operation FIJI ASSIST 16, Lieutenant Colonel Scott Hill said the farewell event underlines the close relationship shared by the two nations.
“We have seen significant cooperation between the ADF and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces,” Lieutenant Colonel Hill said.
“Not just at the personal level, which has been extraordinary, but in terms of the interoperability between the two military organisations.”
“We have made a lot of friendships that will endure well into the future.”
At its peak, approximately 1,000 ADF personnel were deployed on Operation FIJI ASSIST demonstrating Australia’s Defence capability in action.
Navy’s HMAS Canberra and Army’s 16th Aviation Brigade, which operates the MRH-90 helicopters, successfully completed their first deployments while Air Force conducted more than 40 C-17A Globemaster and C-130J Hercules sorties between Australia and Fiji.
“Our new amphibious ships and strategic airlift capability mean we can quickly deliver aid supplies, personnel and equipment with outstanding effect across the region” Major General Smith said.
“It is a new era for Australia and couples well with our compassion and our sense of urgency to help our friends, traits that have been the hallmark of the Australian Defence Force since Federation.”
The Australian Task Force Commander said an enormous amount had been achieved since February.
“There are kids back in their classrooms, people have some shelter and access to medical facilities thanks to our Engineers,” Lieutenant Colonel Hill said.
“Perhaps, most importantly, a bit of hope has come from the fact that their friends from Australia came to help.”
The ADF Task Force will formally conclude its mission when the State of Emergency ends on 19 April. However, Australia will continue to assist the people of Fiji through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and its partner agencies.
Key ADF activities for Operation FIJI ASSIST 16:
- 114 tonnes of humanitarian-assistance and disaster-relief supplies moved by landing craft
- 140 tonnes of aid including food, shelter kits, tents, construction materials and lifted by helicopter
- power to four villages, water facilities to 700 people, large number of temporary shelters constructed
- emergency repairs to nine schools, three medical centres, five community centres and four churches
- 340 assessments of infrastructure conducted by Australian Army Engineers with Fijian civilian and military experts
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