Royal Australian Navy hydrographic ship, HMAS Leeuwin, has recently been deployed to Papua New Guinea to survey the underwater area to improve the safety of navigation, safety of the environment and to assist with the growth of trade and tourism in the area.
Leeuwin’s survey grounds have encompassed Rossel Island and the important strait, Jomard Entrance, located in South East Papua New Guinea. While berthed in Alotau recently, Mr Lassono Phillip, the Councillor of Ware Ward which includes Wari Island, called on the Commanding Officer, Commander Nic Zillman to discuss the important survey work including the advantages it may realise for his community. Counsellor Phillip invited the crew to visit his township at Wari Island which is the main community in the Ward and is adjacent to the survey area.
The following weekend Leeuwin anchored off the pristine waters of Wari Island in the early morning. Once anchored, Commander Zillman and a contingent enjoyed a short boat transfer to the main village to meet Mr Phillip and his leadership team.
"As Leeuwin’s seaboat became visible to the villagers they became extremely curious and excited about our presence in the area,"Commander Zillman said.
"We were aided by a Papua New Guinea Defence Force Liaison Officer, Sub Lieutenant Nathan Thavara, to lead a discussion with the village regarding Leeuwin’s purpose for being in the area and what the ship aims to achieve by surveying the area."
On completion of the welcoming formalities, a good natured and friendly relationship was struck between the Australians and the Wari Island villagers. The islanders main source of trade was marine products including seaweed and hand made clay pots with beautiful designs, some of which were purchased and returned home as gifts for loved ones. Members of the crew proceeded into the village to deliver toys and clothing donated by ship’s company. This proved to be a very enriching experience to both the community and the crew.