Navy-style sunsets in the central west

The Navy white ensign doesn’t fly often in regional NSW – the central west is more farm than frigate. So when Navy comes to town, it raises community interest.

CAPTIONAble Seaman Georgia Bonnett, second from right, and Seaman Vimbayi Hakutangwi, right, talk with veterans in Bathurst during HMAS Harman’s Navy Week tour of the central west. Story and photos by Corporal Jacob Joseph.

That’s what 14 sailors and officers from HMAS Harman found on their tour of Cowra, Parkes, Dubbo, Bathurst and Orange recently.

From February 26 to March 1, the group visited high schools and held sunset ceremonies, lowering the ensign, before heading to local RSLs to meet with veterans and residents.

They were stopped on the street by locals, curious about the unusual uniforms, and surrounded by students, both interested and sceptical about the benefits of a military career.

During Navy Week, Commanding Officer Harman Commander Glyn Hunter wanted to raise Navy’s profile in regional locations, connecting with veterans while finding the next generation of sailors and officers.

He was determined to reach the non-uniformed community by getting off bases and out into inland regional locations.

“Many of the students have never seen a warship or submarine so it was great to share our stories with the community who don’t get to see Navy often or understand the work we do,” Commander Hunter said.

After visiting two high schools daily and speaking to hundreds of students, the group moved to local RSLs to prepare for the ceremonial sunset ceremony.

Local politicians and senior police were joined by groups of veterans, who wore caps emblazoned with the names of ships where they served, brims pulled low to shield against the setting sun.

Among them was Noel Beasley, a former Navy officer from Dubbo, who joined half a century ago to escape a life chasing cattle around a paddock.

Others, like Alison and Malcolm Baggott, had a closer connection to Harman. Both served at the communications base until Alison was forced to choose between family and career after they were engaged.

Alison stayed home while her husband deployed to Vietnam in HMAS Hobart I.

Able Seaman Sophie Marriot found herself comparing experiences with veterans along the way.

“So much has changed with female segregation, and veterans said it was fantastic to see women doing the same jobs as men,” she said.

“Other bases should look into doing this all over the country, because Australia is so much bigger than the coast and we are everybody’s Navy.”

CAPTIONAble Seaman Beau Kinniburgh takes a Scots All Saints College student on a virtual reality tour of a submarine as part of HMAS Harman’s Navy Week tour of the central west.


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