Engagement important to maritime security

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Dylan Pearse (author), LSIS Brenton Freind (photographer)

Location(s): Port Victoria, Seychelles

HMAS Newcastle personnel on the parade ground for Seychelles National Day at the Roche Caiman Sports Complex.  (photo: Leading Seaman Imagery Specialist Brenton Freind)
HMAS Newcastle personnel on the parade ground for Seychelles National Day at the Roche Caiman Sports Complex.

HMAS Newcastle took a short hiatus from its successful, high-tempo success mission recently and conducted several international engagement activities during a recent port visit to Port Victoria in the Republic of Seychelles.

Newcastle personnel have taken to the chance to don the whites in a spectacular setting for Seychelles National Day celebrations.

Thirty of officers and sailors marched alongside representatives from the Indian Navy and Seychelles People’s Defence Force in a parade to mark 39 years of independence for the island nation on 29 June.

Lieutenant Ethan Wiseman, a Maritime Warfare Officer onboard Newcastle, said the ship’s company was invited to participate in the celebrations, having forged a strong friendship through the shared interest of maritime security in the region during its six deployments to the Middle East.

“It was a real honour being the first Australian representatives supporting these celebrations,” he said

“The parade was held at Unity Stadium with a brief address from the Republic of Seychelles President, James Michelle.

“I only wish I spoke French so I could have understood the President’s address.”

Newcastle’s contingent then conducted a march past paying respect from one nation to another.

Sailors also took time out to paint a school house in the Seychelles.

A small contingent of ship’s company capped off the port visit to the island off the coast of Africa to help re-paint a school house at 'The President’s Village' children’s home.

Newcastle’s Commanding Officer, Commander Dominic MacNamara, said it was a rewarding experience for his crew after a busy period of maritime operations as part of the Combined Maritime Force.

“HMAS Newcastle enjoyed some well-earned rest at the end of our second patrol and at the same time, we were pleased to be able to contribute to the community of this beautiful island and strengthen the ties between our two countries,” Commander MacNamara said.

Paint brushes were provided by Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the 25-member working party from Newcastle, under the expert oversight of Chief 'Chippy', Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician Graeme Louk to restore the school house.

“It was really pleasing to see how many of the crew volunteered to work at the orphanage,” Chief Petty Officer Louk said.

“We actually had more workers than we needed and everyone put in a great effort and the result was terrific.”

The President’s Village is dedicated to providing a special family environment to orphans and children whose parents are faced with socio-economic difficulties. It’s currently home to 52 children, ranging from six months to 16 years old and they attend local schools for their education.

With a staff of 35, including 13 childcare workers, the children grow up in a community of love and care.

Later in the day, the Australian High Commissioner for Mauritius, Her Excellency Susan Coles, and members of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade team visited the village to present gifts of soccer, volley and basket balls along with, much to the children’s delight, toy koalas.

“The whole day was such a rewarding experience for all of us,” participant Able Seaman Maritime Logistics - Personnel Melissa McLaren said.

“The smiles and laughter of the children as we played our games were priceless. I think we gained so much from our time with them.”

Newcastle departed Australia for Operation MANITOU in early April as part of the Australian Defence Force contribution to support international efforts to promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East region.

The primary goal of Operation MANITOU is to contribute to the Combined Maritime Forces, which is a 30-nation partnership focused on defeating terrorism, preventing piracy, encouraging regional cooperation and promoting a safe maritime environment.

There are approximately 250 Australian Defence Force members deployed on the operation. Newcastle is on her fifth deployment to the region and is the 60th rotation of a Royal Australian Navy vessel since the first Gulf War in 1990.