Strong partnerships help improve conditions in Island nations

Published on LEUT Emily Kennedy (author), LAC David Cotton (photographer)

Location(s): Vanimo, Papua New Guinea

Topic(s): Exercise PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP, HMAS Tobruk (II)

Local people wait to be seen at the Medical Community Aid Post set up outside the Vanimo Hospital. HMAS Tobruk is at anchor in the background. (photo: LAC David Cotton)
Local people wait to be seen at the Medical Community Aid Post set up outside the Vanimo Hospital. HMAS Tobruk is at anchor in the background.

Australian Defence Force personnel are playing a vital role as key contributors to PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP 2013, a United States-sponsored humanitarian and civic assistance mission to help improve the lives of people in the Pacific Region.

This year PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP will deliver medical, dental, veterinary, explosive remnants of war disposal and engineering aid to Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Solomon Islands. The contributing nations include the USA, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, France and Malaysia.

Around one hundred medical and engineering personnel from the United States, Japan and the ADF are embarked in Landing Ship HMAS Tobruk for the mission in Papua New Guinea to administer medical, dental, veterinary and engineering aid.

Rear Admiral Steve Gilmore, Deputy Chief of Joint Operations, said that as well as embarked specialist medical and engineering personnel, Tobruk’s ship’s company was assisting the townships in Vamino and Wewak which have a combined population of about 40,000.

“Volunteers from Tobruk’s crew have been hard at if for two weeks now refurbishing sport facilities, memorials, public buildings and assisting with bringing awareness of health and hygiene issues to locals,” Rear Admiral Gilmore said.

“Prior to departing Australia, Tobruk was loaded with 100 tonnes of medical and engineering cargo which is now being used in the PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP mission.”

While in Wewak and Vanimo, ADF medical personnel will work with counterparts from the United States and Japan to provide medical and dental aid, conduct clinics and health fairs for locals, and liaise with resident medical practitioners.

Australian Army engineers will work with members of the United States Navy’s Amphibious Construction Battalion from San Diego to conduct maintenance, repairs and refurbishment to schools, used by nearly 5000 children in Vanimo and Wewak.

“The benefits of this exercise are two-fold: it directly benefits the people of the host nations as we work to improve their lives through a range of aid activities; while allowing the partner nations to work together to improve the way we operate with each other in a tri-service and multi-national environment.”

Tobruk’s capabilities shine in this environment where the ship gets an opportunity to use its strengths as a heavy lift ship to facilitate significant aid to a regional neighbour,” Rear Admiral Gilmore said.

“Importantly, PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP provides a platform that can build confidence to ensure the nations involved can respond effectively as a group to a multinational crisis supporting humanitarian and civic action if the need arose.”

Five Clearance Divers from Clearance Diving Team One at HMAS Waterhen in Sydney have also deployed to Solomon Islands to carry out unexploded ordnance disposal as part of the New Zealand-led Operation PUKAURUA, an enduring bi-annual mission that this year will occur alongside PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP.

“The aim of this mission is to reduce and dispose of explosive remnants of war left over from World War II in the south-west Pacific.”

The ADF contribution to PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP this year also includes an Australian National Command Element on board USS Pearl Harbor and an Australian National Command Element on board HMAS Tobruk, plus ADF medical and engineering personnel embarked in the USS Pearl Harbor which will deploy to Samoa, Tonga and the Marshall Islands, and HMZNS Canterbury which will provide aid to Kiribati and Solomon Islands. PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP 2013 ends on 19 August.

Imagery for PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP 2013 is available on the Royal Australian Navy Media Library.