Community engagement key to mission success in Solomon Islands

Published on LEUT Tony White (author), SGT Hamish Paterson (photographer)

Location(s): Yandina, Russell Islands

Topic(s): Operation RENDER SAFE, HMAS Tarakan (II)

Seaman Kieren Paish and Able Seaman Thomas Rutter from HMAS Tarakan are swamped by local children as they step on to the wharf at Yandina, Russell Islands. (photo: Sergeant Hamish Paterson)
Seaman Kieren Paish and Able Seaman Thomas Rutter from HMAS Tarakan are swamped by local children as they step on to the wharf at Yandina, Russell Islands.

Months of careful planning in partnership with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF), the Australian Federal Police (AFP), and Australian Defence and Consulate staff in Honiara, along with a well thought out community engagement program, have been an integral part of Operation RENDER SAFE 2013 according to the head of Combined Joint Task Force 663, Commander Doug Griffiths.

Operation RENDER SAFE 2013 is a Navy-led, multinational Task Force of more than 150 members tasked with removing unexploded World War II munitions from local communities in Solomon Islands.

In the months leading up to RENDER SAFE on October 29, a broad suite of communications activities were planned and developed to support the operation. These ranged from the commissioning of bilingual posters and flyers right down to decisions about the working dress of task force members.

Commander Griffiths said that the community engagement and communications activities of the Task Force were key elements of Operation RENDER SAFE, without which the rest of the mission would not be possible.

“Operation RENDER SAFE is all about local communities being able to live normal, safe and secure lives. We have shared interests in the safety and security of the local community with the AFP and the RSIPF in the Solomon Islands,” Commander Griffiths said.

“As such, all members of the Task Force have been working with local communities in distinctive RENDER SAFE branded uniforms, handing out community engagement information in the form of stickers and flyers that reinforce the message of unexploded ordnance safety throughout local communities.”

“Members of our Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams have spent time working with local communities, meeting with community leaders and members of the local clergy because we need their assistance to convey the message that RENDER SAFE is here to assist the good work of RSIPF EOD staff in reducing the explosive hazards in Solomon Islands.”

“This may mean distributing flyers at local markets or visiting local villages, but certainly community engagement is a core element of our mission and the results to date indicate that our Task Force members are approaching this with great enthusiasm and commitment,” concluded Commander Griffiths.

Operation RENDER SAFE 2013 will continue until 7 December.

Imagery is available on the Royal Australian Navy Media Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20132170 and http://images.navy.gov.au/S20132171.

Seaman Ryan Attwood and Able Seaman Thomas Rutter from HMAS Tarakan take time out of conducting repairs to Yandina Community School to kick a soccer ball with local children during Operation RENDER SAFE 2013.

Seaman Ryan Attwood and Able Seaman Thomas Rutter from HMAS Tarakan take time out of conducting repairs to Yandina Community School to kick a soccer ball with local children during Operation RENDER SAFE 2013.