The unbreakable friendship between HMAS Choules and the town of Mallacoota, forged during the 2019 bushfire crisis, has been recognised with the announcement of the town as Choules’ ceremonial homeport.
CAPTION: Local residents take a tour of Navy MRH-90 Taipan during HMAS Choules visit to ceremonial homeport of Mallacoota. Photo by Leading Seaman Leo Baumgartner.
The Township of Mallacoota chose to ‘adopt’ Choules as a symbolic gesture recognising the importance of the support work undertaken by the ADF during the bushfires and what that work meant to both the ship and town, who equally advocated for the homeport establishment.
Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester said Choules conducted the largest domestic maritime evacuation, with residents and holiday makers transported from Mallacoota to Hastings.
“Mallacoota was one of the hardest hit areas during the bushfires with images of the devastation circulating around the world, and it was our Navy personnel from Choules who helped hundreds of locals and visitors in their time of need,” Mr Chester said.
“Choules successfully evacuated 1305 people, 162 dogs, three cats, one rabbit and one parakeet from Mallacoota via sea over two evacuations.
“The ship also delivered fuel, medical supplies and food to the Mallacoota community and became a pivotal part of the lifesaving operations conducted by the joint emergency services during that time.”
Captain Scott Houlihan, who was Choules’ Commanding Officer during Op Bushfire Assist, said there is an undeniable bond which has been further strengthened with this announcement.
“We heard their survival stories and we recognised the bravery and resilience of the community,’ Captain Houlihan said.
“It is an honour now to officially tie the town to the ship for the life of service.”
Petty Officer Matthew Timbs served in Choules during the evacuations and was involved in the Navy and Army effort to deliver fuel into the town.
He mirrored Captain Houlihan’s remarks and said every one of the crew who served remember the impact they had and the friendships they forged.
“The homeport announcement is great news, many of Ships Company who participated in Op Bushfire Assist discussed the idea of Mallacoota becoming Choules’ homeport almost immediately, exemplifying the strong connection that was made with the community,” Petty Officer Timbs said.
“To me, being able to assist my fellow countrymen during Op Bushfire Assist is by far the best thing I have done during my 14 year career.”
The video of the ceremony is available at: https://fb.watch/47Y2_rUQgL/.