Navy sails into remote communities

Published on LEUT Todd Fitzgerald (author)

Location(s): Derby, WA, HMAS Coonawarra, NT, Kununurra, WA, Gibb River, WA

Topic(s): HMAS Coonawarra, Community Engagement

Navy Community Engagement Coordinator Chief Petty Officer Tony Thomas with HMAS Coonawarra sailors, and staff and students from St Joseph’s Primary School in Kununurra. (photo: )
Navy Community Engagement Coordinator Chief Petty Officer Tony Thomas with HMAS Coonawarra sailors, and staff and students from St Joseph’s Primary School in Kununurra.

Six Northern Territory-based sailors recently ventured into the heart of Australia on a 17-day mission to engage with remote communities and strengthen Navy’s reputation.

The sailors from HMAS Coonawarra drove more than 4000km between Darwin and Broome, visiting 10 outback communities and 10 schools along the way.

They also volunteered at the Gibb River Road Mountain Bike Challenge, a charity event in which participants raise money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Coordinator, Chief Petty Officer Tony Thomas, said the program aimed to educate communities, which would never otherwise come into contact with the Navy, about the service. However, he said it was often the sailors selected to accompany him that learn the most.

“Navy personnel visiting these remote communities gain an insight into their day-to-day life and into the varied challenges the locals face,” he said.

“They are given the opportunity to stand strong and proud of what they are and what they represent. Being involved, and in some way responsible for this, creates a great sense of pride.”

Seaman Kali Rattenbury said she felt “incredibly fortunate” to take part in the trip.

“Perhaps the most vivid memory for me was visiting a remote primary school and interacting with the pre-schoolers.

"When shown a promotional video, the kids were in complete awe and erupted in cheers.

"This really drove home how influential and important a force like the Navy is to everyone, right down to a pre-schooler.

“I’m so grateful for this experience and can’t wait to see where the Navy takes me,” Seaman Rattenbury said.

Seaman Sarah West visited her former high school in Derby, Western Australia during the trip. She said the program was important because it showed kids in remote communities that good career and lifestyle options existed outside their towns.

Deputy Principal of Derby District High School, Jacqueline Brown, agreed with her former student.

‘It was excellent to see a former student return to the community and share her career pathway and journey. She is a credit to herself and has encouraged others to follow in her footsteps,” Ms Brown said.