HMAS Tobruk will return to Townsville this week after three weeks supporting Operation PACIFIC ASSIST in Vanuatu.
Tobruk provided life-saving humanitarian assistance and disaster relief support to isolated communities throughout the cyclone devastated archipelago in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Pam, delivering more than 25 tonnes of supplies, equipment and reconstruction teams by landing craft, helicopter and crane.
Commander Joint Task Force 665, Captain Jay Bannister said the ship and its company performed exceptionally well, providing an invaluable contribution to the mission.
“I’m really pleased with what everyone onboard has done here; the Tobruk and its capabilities have been invaluable during this mission,” Captain Bannister said.
“Everyone has really chipped in, they’ve made a significant difference and they’ve made life better for the local population.”
Tobruk’s return begins the drawdown of the Australian Defence Force’s activities in Vanuatu.
“Now is the appropriate time for us to be withdrawing in a phased approach,” Captain Bannister said.
“I am seeing a lot of positive trends with the local authorities coordinating and controlling the relief effort and of course the international agencies that are on the ground are stepping into the breach as well.
“We have achieved what we came here to do; to provide that immediate first aid, engineering and humanitarian relief and I’m very proud and content that we’ve done that.
“We are leaving some Black Hawk helicopters here for a little bit longer, they will do some really important work over the next week.”
As part of the DFAT-led mission, the Australian Defence Force has helped deliver personnel and supplies on behalf of Non-Government Organisations, the United Nations and the United States Government.
After a month of Australian, New Zealand, French and British support to recovery operations, locals are progressively returning to their daily routines with businesses, restaurants, and open-air markets reopening while children are returning to school.
Australian Defence Force personnel have played a major part in the immediate relief effort by repairing key infrastructure, restoring basic services and delivering vital humanitarian assistance and disaster relief support.
The Australian Defence Force have committed more than 500 personnel, undertaken approximately 260 supporting sorties and delivered over 200 pallets of aid to Vanuatu during the relief effort.
There are still approximately 82 Australian Defence Force personnel left in Vanuatu supporting the work of three Army S-70 Black Hawk helicopters, vehicles and engineering stores.
HMAS Tobruk is returning with over 30 vehicles and a group of 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment personnel.