The sun beamed on HMAS Newcastle’s crew as she berthed alongside the historic Port of Colombo on her way back from operations in the Middle East.
Newcastle’s visit – the third consecutive Australian ship to conduct a port visit in Sri Lanka in 18 months – saw the ship’s company play a well-rehearsed role as cultural ambassadors for Australia. Newcastle hosted a reception for Sri Lankan public officials, diplomats, and military officers concluding with a traditional Ceremonial Sunset performed by the Newcastle Guard.
Ship’s company also took part in a friendly soccer game hosted by the Sri Lankan Navy, and a cricket match at a local orphanage.
Able Seaman Marine Technician Beau Denton, an integral defender in Newcastle’s soccer team, really enjoyed the opportunity to play sport with the local Navy.
“The Sri Lankans hosted us for an afternoon tea after the game, which was great. They were very hospitable and gracious hosts,” he said.
“The score was irrelevant—football was the winner of the day. Everyone got a kick out of it.”
For Able Seaman Marine Technician Kirstie Dunleavy, visiting the orphanage was a highlight.
“I didn’t expect it to be such a positive experience,” she said.
“Those kids brought a warmth and a light to such a sad situation.
“They were getting looked after and I found the experience very rewarding.”
She said she enjoyed the company of the girls in the local orphanage that it reminded her of her own family.
“They were so happy; I got so many kisses, so many cuddles!” she said.
“They wanted to dance, sing, take pictures, play with my hair, I showed them pictures of my kids; they said they were beautiful. I wish we could have stayed there longer.”
During the visit to the orphanage, Newcastle played cricket with the youngsters and then provided a morning tea for all of the children.
Australia enjoys a special relationship with Sri Lanka, with whom we shares a British heritage and a passion for cricket. This, combined with close cooperation in global security issues, underpins a unique friendship which has been bolstered by Newcastle’s visit.