Two weeks after being evacuated from rising flood waters, residents of Noonkanbah in Western Australia were returned to their homes in Army helicopters.
CAPTION: Members of C Squadron, 5th Aviation Regiment, unload groceries off an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter for the Yungngora people returning to their homes in Noonkanbah. Story by Flight Lieutenant Dean Squire. Photo by Leading Aircraftwoman Kate Czerny.
The tiny community of Noonkanbah is a 459km road trip from Broome – where the townsfolk sought shelter during the height of the floods.
It’s a trip now made impossible after fast-flowing water washed away vast stretches of the road.
The only way in from Broome is by air, which is currently being supported by Australian Army CH-47F Chinooks and MRH90 Taipans from the 5th Aviation Regiment at the request of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
Noonkanbah has just 300 residents. Despite being exhausted, 22 of them they were happy to be returning home as they sat facing each other down the length of a CH-47F Chinook.
One of them was community leader Johnathan Cox.
CAPTION: Noonkanbah community leader Johnathan Cox, left, is one of 22 members of the Yungngora people repatriated by an Army CH-47 Chinook. Photo by Leading Aircraftwoman Kate Czerny.
“It’s been a difficult time for our people being so far away from home,” Mr Cox said.
“This flight means we can once again get on with our lives and get the community up and running.”
In the rear of the CH-47 Chinook, Aircrewman Technician Corporal Edward Deren and his 5th Aviation Regiment colleagues helped defuse some initial apprehension for those boarding a military helicopter for the first time.
The team were delighted to be playing such a significant part in returning people to their homes.
“The Chinook is an amazing aircraft. It can operate in very challenging environments and with the road cut off it’s a great option to take these people home,” Corporal Deren said.
CAPTION: Four-year-old Roylein Seela hugs Corporal Edward Deren, an aircrewman technician from 5th Aviation Regiment, after returning home to Noonkanbah on the Fitzroy River. Photo by Leading Aircraftwoman Kate Czerny.
“It’s rewarding to be part of something that helps local communities when they need it most. The smiles as they saw their homes from the aircraft windows was fantastic.”
Returning those previously evacuated is great progress towards supporting remote communities in the region get back on their feet.