The Navy Variety Bash team arrived in Bunbury on 10 August, after traversing the continent raising funds and awareness for Variety - the Children's Charity.
The team experienced beautiful sunsets on approach to Port Pirie in South Australia, the dust of Ceduna, and drove through the Stirling Ranges, all while spreading a little of Navy cheer to communities and helping kids in need.
Amongst the crew was Petty Officer Musician Esa Thomas who said she has been doing what she loves, every day for the past 15 years.
As one of the three members of the Navy Variety Bash Team who travelled from Bass Hill, New South Wales, to Bunbury, Western Australia, she enjoyed the best of both worlds – furthering her musical career and helping others at the same time.
Petty Officer Thomas joined the Navy in March 2000 under the Tertiary Musician Entrance Scheme. She was in her second year of a Bachelor of Music at James Cook University in Townsville, when she passed an audition and enlisted.
“I was thrilled! I had my last year of University fees paid for by the Navy and was on a recruit wage for the year," she said.
“It was an amazing opportunity to start a performance career that I may not have had the chance to do, had it not been for the Navy,” Petty Officer Thomas said.
“And it is not very often you have a job to go to, straight after University.”
Now 35, Petty Officer Thomas has had many opportunities for travel both within Australia and overseas with the Royal Australian Navy Band, and has spent much time away from her hometown of Boyne Island in Queensland, where her family still lives.
The trips were to provide Navy Band support at various Navy Week celebrations, Freedom of Entry parades, memorial services and for community outreach purposes such as performing at public concerts and engaging with students at school workshops and performances.
“Wow, the places I have been! Brunei, Tonga, Samoa, China… Probably the most memorable trip was travelling to Turkey in 2007 as part of the Band, and playing at the Gallipoli Anzac Day Dawn Service and Lone Pine Service.
"This was such a significant event to me as a Navy musician and has been a highlight of my career so far.”
Another significant experience for Petty Officer Thomas was the opportunity to work with the Royal Marines Bands, based in England and Scotland, in 2009 when she participated in the Longlook exchange.
“This was such good opportunity for me to see where many of the Royal Australian Navy traditions have come from, for example, the sequence of parades,” she said.
Petty Officer Thomas says that being a part of the Navy has opened up experiences to her that she would never have thought of, or realised was even a possibility. When she was younger, the Variety Bash went through Boyne Island one year, and she remembers watching it on TV remarking how much fun it looked, and how inspiring it was to see the good it was contributing to the local community. For her, going on the Variety Bash was something she had dreamed of doing, since this time.
“When I saw an article in Navy News five years ago, looking for new members to join the Navy team, I jumped at the chance. It was such a rewarding experience, that I have now completed my fifth Bash!
“Being involved allows you to see directly where the money is going within the children’s charity, with various equipment from bicycles to iPads to play equipment provided for children and the communities most in need.”
Petty Officer Thomas’ fifth bash involved travelling some 4,598 kilometres with her team mates bringing Navy into communities that may not generally be reached through the usual Navy events like ship departures or returns. The Navy Variety Bash Team departed Bass Hill on Sunday 2 August, led by the Royal Australian Navy Band Sydney Detachment and were welcomed into Bunbury, Western Australia, by the Navy Band there.