Navy aircrew say g'day in Arnhem Land

Published on LEUT Nicholas Robinson (author), ABIS Nicolas Gonzalez (photographer)

Location(s): Northern Territory, Northern Territory

Topic(s): Exercise KAKADU

 (photo: )

On Friday 29 August 2014, members of the Royal Australian Navy's (RAN) 816 Squadron visited local communities in Arnhem Land as part of Navy's community engagement during Exercise KAKADU 2014.

The two SB-70B Seahawk helicopters were warmnly welcomed by the Gunbalanya Community, a large Aboriginal town situated about 60km north east of Jabiru, across the East Alligator River in Arnhem Land.

Kerry Manakgu, an Assistant Teacher at West Arnhem School, said the children had been looking forward to the visit.

"This is very special. The kids like to see how big the helicopters are," Ms Manakgu said.

 Local boys Raphael and Norman were also suitably impressed.

 "We like the noise!" the boys said.

 Lieutenant Commander Mick Doncaster, Executive Officer HMAS Coonawarra, drove the three and a half hours out to Gunbalanya from Darwin to meet the flight.

“We left at 0530 this morning. The bitumen ends at Kayle's Crossing and you feel like you are going into another world.

"It is a real privilege to come here today, its an amazing community. 

"You only have to look around from where we are standing now and you can see the ancient landscapes of Arnhem Land. It is somewhere we very rarely ever get to visit,” Lieutenant Commander Doncaster said.

The area around Gunbalanya is known as Stone Country, a name inspired by the spectacular Arnhem Land escarpment and rock formations that emerge from the floodplains surrounding the town.

The visit is an example of the RAN working to engage with communities across all regions of Australia.