Albatross community rallies together to help Shoalhaven farmers

This article has photo gallery Published on Ms Dallas McMaugh (author), POIS Justin Brown (author)

Location(s): HMAS Albatross, NSW

Topic(s): HMAS Albatross, Charities, Fundraising & Community

Defence personnel gather at the Fleet Air Arm Museum to register for the 'Tour the T' fun run/walk at HMAS Albatross. (photo: POIS Justin Brown)
Defence personnel gather at the Fleet Air Arm Museum to register for the 'Tour the T' fun run/walk at HMAS Albatross.

Community-minded Defence members, APS and contractors have used an annual event to raise much needed funds for struggling farmers in the Shoalhaven region.

Now in its 8th year, the ‘Tour the T’ charity fun run is a popular fixture on the HMAS Albatross calendar, providing personnel with the rare opportunity to get out on the T-shaped Albatross runway for either an eight kilometre run or four kilometre walk.

Entry fees for this year’s run went to ‘Buy a Bale’, an organisation which provides resources to drought affected farming communities. The event was the culmination of ‘Operation Farm Assist’, a charity drive which commenced fundraising on 1 August with weeks of raffles, BBQs, hot dog days, bucket shakes and a Krispy Kreme run.

Physical Training Manager, Petty Officer Scott Daniel, said this year’s event was one of the biggest yet with 272 participants and more than 50 spectators. 

“Our mission was to facilitate a fun run/walk that catered for all and promoted esprit de corps.

“Personally, it was one of the best events I’ve been a part of and it was great to see so many personnel involved in achieving our mission of raising much needed funds for local farmers who are experiencing the worst drought in over a century.”

Operation Farm Assist co-ordinator, Naval Police Coxswain Chief Petty Officer Charmaine Edwards, said fund raising activities ended on a high with a hoedown theme. 

“We invited the ‘Tour the T’ runners and supporters to dress in their best flannel shirt and get into the spirit of the day with some country music,” CPO Edwards said. 

There was even the opportunity to have photos taken with special guests, House Rules winners and south coast dairy farmers Toad Heffernan and Mandy Stone.

“I think we all needed to hear first-hand from a local producer who could talk about the struggle to keep cattle alive and producing,” CPO Edwards said.

“Toad gave a heart rending speech about the high cost of feeding his animals and the lack of feed available. 

“In a later chat with him he told me of mental health issues induced by stress of the drought and the toll this was taking on many farmers, some of whom have resorted to slaughtering their livestock.

“Since Nowra is located within a dairy industry area, Operation Farm Assist was a chance for us to support the community that supports the base,” said CPO Edwards.

“I want Australian farmers to know that the personnel of HMAS Albatross have their back.

“We respect them, we're proud of them and we need them. 

“We know the money raised won't go far in the scheme of things but we hope it will provide some respite.”

Albatross Commanding Officer, Captain Fiona Sneath said “I am extremely pleased with the wide participation from ADF, APS and contractors and proud of the success of the event.” 

“It was a great example of everyone working together to make the event fun and also assist those in our community who are doing it tough.

In particular, Captain Sneath thanked Wilson Security, ESS, and Navy Canteens who donated raffle prizes of a hot lap in a race car, a dinner for ten, and a weekend at Burrill Lakes. Individual members also donated prizes including a week in a holiday house, and significant cash donations.   

This year's ‘Tour the T’ winners were: 

  • Open male 8km run - SMN Dylan Holland
  • Open female 8km run - Miss Bec Heather
  • Masters male 8km run - LCDR Chris McConachy
  • Masters female 8km run - Ms Tammy Jones
  • Male 4km walk - LCDR George Banic
  • Female 4km walk - Mrs Donna Hayek

Fundraising in support of farmers continues, with ESS donating $1.00 from all swiped meals in the messes for lunch on 27 September to ‘Buy a Bale’.