Not many young Australians can say they’ve busted drug and weapon smugglers, supported earthquake recovery efforts and visited nine countries on three continents.
Yet 22-year-old Lisanne Hyland has done all that in a single year.
And when family and friends gather in the Adelaide suburb of Brighton this Christmas, Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Hyland will still be on duty, keeping watches far from home in guided missile frigate HMAS Darwin.
Originally from Cork, in Ireland, she moved toAustraliawith her parents and three sisters at the age of eight.
A keen soccer player, she represented South Australia in the Under 15’s and Under 19’s National Women’s Soccer League until in May 2014 she joined the Royal Australian Navy in search of travel and adventure.
“I just couldn’t see myself behind a desk,” she said.
“I chose Boatswains Mate because it’s mostly hands on work such as weapons, small boat handling, berthing and helmsmanship.
“We also get involved in boarding operations and force protection which is all the interesting stuff.”
As the New Year was being celebrated 12 months ago, Able Seaman Hyland left Australian shores for a seventh-month deployment to the Middle East.
The journey included visits to Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Bahrain, Oman, United Arab Emirates, the Seychelles, and the ship’s participation in the International Fleet Review in Vishakhapatnam, India, where the ship's company marched before an ecstatic crowd of more than one million spectators.
She described the sights and sounds as breathtaking.
Despite port visits in exotic locations, she said the most profound experience was her role in several high-value drug and weapon seizures.
In February, Darwin seized a large weapons cache following the boarding of a fishing vessel in the northIndian Ocean.
The weapons, including nearly 2000 AK-47 assault rifles and 100 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, were seized under UN sanctions which authorise interdiction on the high seas of illicit weapons destined for Somalia.
Soon after in May, Darwin’s boarding party seized almost one tonne of heroin during three vessel interceptions off the east coast of Africa.
The seizure denied an estimated AUD $800 million worth of narcotics, ordinarily used to fund terrorist activities in the region.
Able Seaman Hyland had a vital and determined role in both interceptions as a member of the boarding party.
“They were long boardings,” she said.
“We broke up into two teams but we were generally on board for 12 hours at a time, searching for the drugs.
“When we found them it was an overwhelming feeling; to know that we had reduced the funding to terrorist organisations but also with the knowledge that we had prevented some of the drugs from getting into, and harming, the community.”
In November, Darwin sailed to Auckland, New Zealand to participate in the Royal New Zealand Navy’s International Naval Review, before a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the South Island, killing two and isolating the small township of Kaikoura.
In the space of 36 hours, Darwin evacuated more than 60 civilians by sea boat to HMNZS Canterbury and delivered approximately 13,500 kilograms of food, water and emergency supplies by helicopter.
Darwin sent teams of approximately 30 sailors ashore each day for a wide variety of repair work, clean up duties and welfare visits to residents in outlying areas.
Able Seaman Hyland was again in the thick of the operation a member of this team.
“We went door knocking to make sure some of the elderly residents were safe and well,” she said.
“We saw a lot of damage and helped with small jobs like picking up furniture and sweeping the floors.
“Some people hadn’t seen anyone in five days since the earthquake struck and there were some obvious signs of relief – a lot of people broke down in tears.
“Personally it was very rewarding, being able to see the immediate effects of helping people in need.”
Able Seaman Hyland will spend Christmas Day on duty at Garden Island in Sydney Harbour.
“I can’t complain,” she said.
“I was home for Christmas last year and I might be able to get away for a week in Adelaide soon.
“I can’t wait to head to Brighton Beach and catch up with old friends and colleagues at Café Prego on Jetty Road.”
This Christmas, Anzac frigate HMAS Arunta is on duty in the Middle East - continuing the Australian Navy contribution to maritime security in the region.