Churchill Park in Rockingham was brimming with activity on September 9, as more than 180 personnel from HMAS Stirling formed up for a freedom-of-entry march.
CAPTION: Ship’s company from HMAS Stirling conduct a freedom-of-entry parade through the streets of Rockingham, WA. Story by Lieutenant Eleanor Williams. Photos by Able Seaman Rikki-Lea Phillips.
First granted on November 12, 1988, in conjunction with the celebration of Rockingham becoming a city, the parade and spectacle 35 years on from the initial ceremony was inspiring.
The Navy Band’s timeless beat kicked things off before, in keeping with tradition, City Marshall Senior Sergeant Ian Francis, from Western Australia Police, halted the parade at the crossroads of Flinders Lane.
Chief Petty Officer Naval Police Coxswain Jenene Bentley was the scroll bearer and brought forward the signed entry manuscript.
CAPTION: Senior Sergeant Ian Francis, from WA Police, performs the challenge during the HMAS Stirling Freedom of Entry Parade.
With the authority of the mayor, councillors and citizens of Rockingham, Stirling was permitted to pass.
Commanding Officer Stirling Captain Ken Burleigh said the occasion showed the bond and trust between the Rockingham and Stirling.
“To receive this accolade is an honour, to share this with families and friends today makes it remarkable. Stirling continues to grow and, with it, a stronger community. We build our stability, renew our commitment and dedication to the City of Rockingham and all those here today,” Captain Burleigh said.
CAPTION: Mayor of Rockingham Deb Hamblin inspects the guard during the ceremony.
Locals enjoyed wandering around stalls as the day led into a Defence-themed community festival.
There were demonstrations, live music and competitions, with stallholders including Clearance Dive Team Four, Navy Medics, Navy Cadets, Reserve Support, Defence Member Family Support, Legacy and Buddy Up.
The WA Police’s mounted guards brought up the rear and the parade concluded in front of the war memorial.
Mayor of Rockingham Deb Hamlin said the city was proud to hold longstanding ties with Defence, and in particular the Navy.
“Thousands of current and former service personnel call our city home, and today’s freedom-of-entry parade will be a powerful gesture that honours the relationship we’ve developed over many years,” Councillor Hamlin said.
During medieval times, citizens would only allow armed troops to enter their walled cities if they were certain the troops would not attack. Granting freedom of entry is still seen as the highest accolade a city can bestow upon a group.