Focus on Pacific management

Published on Department of Defence (author), SGT Dave Morley (photographer)

Location(s): Canberra, ACT

Topic(s): Patrol Vessels (PB & PSO)

Defence Assistant Secretary Pacific and Timor-Leste, Commodore Stephen Woodall, RAN, addresses the forum attended by Australian and New Zealand maritime advisors to Pacific nations. (photo: SGT Dave Morley)
Defence Assistant Secretary Pacific and Timor-Leste, Commodore Stephen Woodall, RAN, addresses the forum attended by Australian and New Zealand maritime advisors to Pacific nations.

Australian and New Zealand Navy members who provide advice and support to Pacific island nations operating patrol boats donated by Australia have attended a successful conference.

The Maritime Surveillance Advisors and Technical Advisors Conference held in Canberra in late November enabled the personnel posted to 12 of Australia’s Pacific partners to be updated on our engagement in the region.

One of the significant developments on the agenda was the Pacific Maritime Security Program, which replaces the successful Pacific Patrol Boat Program.

The Pacific Maritime Security Program involves the roll out of 21 new Guardian-class patrol boats to 13 nations, integrated aerial surveillance and enhancements to regional cooperation over the next five years. 

Commodore Stephen Woodall, who is responsible for the Defence Cooperation Program, the Pacific Patrol Boat Program and the Pacific Maritime Security Program said it was important to bring the maritime surveillance and technical advisors together. 

“Many of our people operate in isolated islands.

“Sometimes there is no Australian High Commission there, and internet and phone access is limited, so they don’t get the same information the remainder of us in Defence regularly get,” Commodore Woodall said.

“At the conference we updated them on the latest government direction and the latest Defence direction on our engagement in the Pacific.”

He said much of the focus was on enhancing Australia’s engagement with its Pacific neighbours.

“Importantly, the advisors were able to talk to each other about initiatives that work or don’t work in their host country, so they go back out recharged and reset for the next 12 months,” he said. 

The Australian personnel are based in Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Royal New Zealand Navy personnel support the Australian-gifted patrol boat in the Cook Islands. 

The maritime surveillance advisors are Lieutenant Commanders who provide advice and support relating to the Pacific Patrol Boats and also help the local senior officer with operational planning, surveillance, maritime security and enforcement. 

The technical advisors are Chief Petty Officers who provide advice and support on the maintenance and repair of the patrol boats, and deliver expertise in developing crew skills at the junior level and conducting specific tasks such as search and rescue.

Australian Defence advisors resident in the Pacific region, as well as representatives from key regional partners New Zealand, France and the US also attended the conference.