HMAS Leeuwin helped a small Australian charity to transport medical supplies and other donated items to Soibada, Timor-Leste recently, and the goods have had an immediate effect.
A washing machine delivered by the navy ship is now used at a maternity clinic in the remote village to clean soiled linen - a job previously done by the midwives by hand in a river.
Leeuwin also transported baby clothes, school supplies, sporting equipment and five sewing machines.
Founding member of the Pittwater Friends of Soibada, Tamara Harding, said the delivery had “further cemented the bond between our two countries.”
“Navy’s assistance demonstrates the role the Australian Defence Force plays in supporting our neighbours during peacetime,” she said.
“The plan is to assist the community in Soibada to become self-sufficient, so we generally do not just donate material items. Donations such as the five sewing machines that Leeuwin carried will provide the opportunity for training and development of small business within the community.”
Leeuwin, an HMAS Cairns based ship, was already on the way to Timor-Leste via Darwin on a separate tasking when Mrs Harding made the request for Navy for assistance.
The ship will also visit Palau and Pohnpei to conduct regional engagement, and survey operations, and will train with the Timor-Leste Navy.
Commanding Officer, Commander Richard Mortimer said Leeuwin was happy to help the charity and the residents of Soibada.
“As part of Leeuwin’s mid-year deployment we were heading to Dili for survey work and training with the Timor Leste Defence force, so the opportunity to assist an Australian charity by delivering these stores was readily taken,” he said.
Mrs Harding is a former Navy officer who served in the Australian-led international force during the crisis in East Timor between 1999 and 2000.
She said Australia had a debt of gratitude to pay to the East Timorese since the Second World War, when they helped Australian Diggers fight the Japanese.
“The people of Soibada are very resilient and pro-active. They initiate and direct all the projects we assist with. They have a greater understanding of what is needed in their community than we do as outsiders. Our goal is not to make the change but to facilitate the change so that it comes from within the Soibada community. We must enable the people to help themselves,” she said.