Family reunion on Thursday Island for Newcastle sailors

Published on SBLT Shafiqah Shariffali (author), Courtesy ABBM Jack Nona (photographer)

Location(s): Thursday Island, Torres Strait

Topic(s): HMAS Newcastle (F06)

AB Thomas Ketchell (in uniform second from left), and AB Jack Nona with their families at Thursday Island. (photo: Courtesy ABBM Jack Nona)
AB Thomas Ketchell (in uniform second from left), and AB Jack Nona with their families at Thursday Island.

The morning of Monday 29 August was an experience to remember for three of HMAS Newcastle’s junior sailors. Able Seaman Boatswains Mates Thomas Ketchell, Kazu Savage and Jack Nona, who are of indigenous heritage, made the most of their opportunity on an unexpected visit to Thursday Island. 

Whilst conducting a navigation exercise in vicinity of the Torres Strait Island group, Newcastle played a part in reuniting the three Boatswain’s Mates with their families and friends. A welcomed hometown visit for the trio, the sailors spent time reacquainting with familiar faces at ‘Uncle Frankie’s’, a café which locals refer to as home of the Island’s ‘best fried chicken’.  

For AB Savage, this was the first time in two years that he had been on home soil. The chance to see his parents and siblings was greatly appreciated. No stranger to the life of a sailor, AB Savage followed in the footsteps of his uncle who currently serves as a Chief Petty Officer in HMAS Cairns. 

It was no less emotional for AB Ketchell, whose parents were more than happy to greet their eldest son. AB Ketchell has a sister who is currently serving onboard HMAS Melbourne and quality time with family is often difficult to coordinate

Although he originally hails from Badu Island, AB Nona was glad to be in the company of extended family and friends as he recalled the simple lifestyle of Island living. With an average of one visit home a year, family reunions are deeply cherished, especially with much of the Nona family serving as other Marine Technicians, Communicators, Boatswain’s Mates and hydrographic sailors in the fleet. 

Both AB Ketchell and Nona enlisted in Navy in 2014 through the Navy Indigenous Development Program. AB Savage joined a year later.

A short but sweet stopover, it was agreed that this particular Thursday Island reunion would be one to remember for three of Newcastle’s dedicated sailors.

Newcastle is currently participating in Exercise Kakadu 2018.