RAAF flies stranded Aussies home from New Caledonia

Around 70 Australians and foreign nationals boarded a Royal Australian Air Force C-130J Hercules for the first ADF repatriation flight out of New Caledonia on 21 May.

CAPTION: Stranded tourists board a RAAF C-130J Hercules at Noumea’s Magenta Airport for repatriation to Australia following violent unrest in New Caledonia. Story by Lieutenant Carolyn Martin. Photo by Leading Aircraftman Adam Abela.

ADF provided assistance in support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-led response to repatriate Australian citizens, permanent visa holders and approved foreign nationals to Australia.

Many of the passengers were anxiously awaiting a flight home after being stranded in the wake of unrest, which led the South Pacific island to declare a state of emergency.

Among the passengers to board the C-130J Hercules were Port Macquarie couple Robyn and Hermin van Haren, both in their 70s.

They had been on the island to take time out and relax as Hermin has leukaemia, but their dream holiday turned sour when the unrest started.

Mrs Van Harren said she was very relieved and grateful for the ride home.

She also said she was grateful that the locals had been very accommodating and willing to share their limited food supplies.

Another couple, Simon and Anna Buckeridge from Port Douglas, said the situation has been quite stressful and they were quite relieved to be going home.

Also on holiday in Noumea was Australian Army Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Powell and his family.

“It was OK for three days but things went bad on the Monday,” Lieutenant Colonel Powell said.

“We’ve been under curfew.

“Normally I’m on the other side of the ADF helping others, but on this occasion I needed help from our own people.”

ADF contingent leader Flight Lieutenant Thomas Rogers, of 383 Squadron, said the ADF crew were on standby and ready to assist with flights as soon as the Australian government was given diplomatic clearance to land on the Pacific island.

“The ADF contingent deployed on short notice and established a staging area at RAAF Base Amberley with government officials to assist with planning the assisted flights home,” Flight Lieutenant Rogers said.

“On board the aircraft was a small contingent of medical, security and maintenance personnel, as well as DFAT and Australian Border Force staff to enable the swift processing of passengers.

“Key considerations included the requirement for safe passage of the stranded Australians from their accommodation to the pickup location at Noumea’s Magenta Airport.

“The ADF was able to provide rapid planning and remain agile until the situation on the ground stabilised to enable the deployed contingent to execute the repatriation plan in support of DFAT.”







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Posted by Brian Hartigan

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One thought on “RAAF flies stranded Aussies home from New Caledonia

  • 18/06/2024 at 9:12 am

    The after flight comments from the rescued travellers were hardly effusive. Something along the lines of ‘special thanks to the crew for getting us out of a very tense situation and getting us safely home. Also thanks to the RAAF for their organizational skills in getting things done, and to the people of Australia for funding the flight’.

    Maybe I’m expecting too much, but common courtesy should still be visible, especially from the oldies who were raised in a gentler era.

    Perhaps it happened, but was not reported. Noted that the LTCOL made it about himself. Them again, Army seldom acknowledges the good work done by the RAAF


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