At first glance, seeing five Navy personnel west of Amberley Air Base seems a bit odd. But dig a little deeper and there is a good reason that the Navy Community Engagement Program (NCEP) Team from HMAS Moreton saddled up the wagons and headed west.
Around 20% of Navy’s recruitment comes from western and central Queensland. With that in mind, it is no coincidence that seeing the Navy uniform as far west as Birdsville provides an automatic talking point with locals.
Parents, kids, teenagers and retirees engaged with the willing team from Brisbane, as the team immersed themselves in the local activities to show that country Queensland is just as relevant to Navy as a fleet base on Sydney Harbour.
Hitting the highway early, the team’s first stop was Mitchell for the Camel and Pig Races. Able Seaman Jack Taylor proved that Navy is made up of adaptable people with hidden skills. He put all his training as an Avionics Technician to good use and won the 4th heat of the prestigious Mitchell Camel Races. Drawing the crankiest camel in the bunch, with form for biting his own jockey, Jack showed Number 4 who was boss and set a straight and true course for the finish line to take the honours.
All retired to the pig races and a cold drink with new friends. During all this the team was constantly being questioned by local parents and teenagers as to what life in the Navy is really like. As for the pig races, well, let’s just say that the Navy team made some healthy donations to the local fund raiser.
Next stop Cunnamulla, where the team were joined by Commander Mark McConnell, CO HMAS Moreton. Strengthening the links between HMAS Moreton and Cunnamulla, CMDR McConnell presented the local library with a collection of Navy books and certificates for students who had participated in the Navy experience competition this year.
A visit to the library to interact with local school children was followed by a morning tea and warm country hospitality and then a visit to the local school, rounded off a great day in Cunnamulla.
With Charleville the next stop, the team was given the honour of talking with students remotely at the world-famous School of the Air. Some excellent questions were aired in the virtual classroom. Students gained a greater understanding of the roles and activities of the Navy and how officers and sailors work together in the defence of Australia’s interests in the maritime environment.
From Charleville the team continued as far west as Birdsville to be on site for the famous races, stopping to visit Windorah State School. It is a long and dusty dirt road from Windorah to Birdsville, but the team wasn’t deterred. After two days of engaging with the crowds that flock to the town for the annual race, the NCEP Team began the long journey back, stopping to spread the good word about life in the Navy at Quilpie and Roma.