Mine warfare hub sees smoke

This article has photo gallery Published on LCDR David Hellier (author)

Location(s): HMAS Waterhen

Topic(s): Ceremony and Traditions, HMAS Waterhen, Culture, Events, Mine Countermeasures

LCDR David Hellier, Elaine and Terry Olsen with CMDR Nick Watson at HMAS Waterhen during one of the ancient ceremonies and consists of smouldering various native plants to produce smoke, which is used as a cleansing property and to ward off bad spirits. (photo: Unknown)
LCDR David Hellier, Elaine and Terry Olsen with CMDR Nick Watson at HMAS Waterhen during one of the ancient ceremonies and consists of smouldering various native plants to produce smoke, which is used as a cleansing property and to ward off bad spirits.

HMAS Waterhen is often referred to as a 'sleepy hollow across the Harbour' by most of the Navy in Sydney, but that was proved wrong recently with a day highlighting the combination of old and new.

The new Commanding and Executive Officers who took the reins in December last year, marked the start of their tenures with a smoking ceremony.

One of the action items from the Defence Reconciliation Plan 2015-2018 was to erect three flag poles flying the National, Aboriginal, and Torres Strait Island Flags, with a commemorative plaque.

To complete the installation early last year, Terry and Elaine Olsen of the Anawan People conducted the ceremony.

A welcome to country was observed acknowledging the Guring-Gai Nation and Cammeraygal people as the traditional custodians of the land on which Waterhen sits, and Terry's body painting showed the water people depicting the sun shimmering off the water.

The ancient ritual involves smouldering various native plants to produce smoke, which is believed to a cleansing property and an ability to ward off bad spirits.

On completion, the distinguished guests and members of the combined Waterhen and resident unit ships' companies and Defence employees were treated to light refreshments in the Senior Sailors mess.

The team prepared for the arrival of Commander Shore Force, Captain Stephen Bowater, who also recently assumed his position.

The visit was conducted in true 'stone frigate' style with Captain Bowater arriving and departing by boat, reinforcing the importance of Waterhen's focus as one of the many Navy ports of Sydney Harbour.

Commander Shore Force's visit to the base was to conduct introductions, discussions and a walk around the parent establishment for Australia's mine countermeasures.

The events were all in a day's work and the base remained faithful to the motto 'Always Ready'.