Cheered on by hundreds of locals and visitors, Commanding Officer Coonawarra Commander Darren Rushworth said the event was a great lift for the ship’s company, which had been very busy in support of border protection operations.
“Navy’s ability to protect Australia's maritime domain, which is the lifeline of our nation and key to our security and prosperity, is only possible through the work of our highly committed, skilled and competent servicemen and women,” he said.
“I want to thank the local community for coming out during Navy Week in the Northern Territory to show our officers and sailors that their work is important and they are a valued member of this tight-knit community.”
The ship’s company marched down Knuckey Street, where it was challenged by Darwin City Town Clerk Scott Waters at the Darwin Town Hall, with Freedom of Entry heartily granted.
The tradition of Freedom of Entry dates back to the 11th century, when a city trained soldiers for defensive measures and city protection. Freedom of Entry was rigorously controlled by the city leaders as a measure of precaution rather than an act of grace.
In modern times the granting of Freedom of Entry bestows no legal right or privilege on the recipient body, but it is accepted that the conferment is the most honourable distinction the city can give.
Almost 600 men and women of the Royal Australian Navy are based in the Darwin area, most of whom work at HMAS Coonawarra.
There are 11 Armidale-class patrol boats home-ported at HMAS Coonawarra.
Commander Rushworth said it was an exciting time to be in the Navy based in Darwin.
“Defence has committed $272 million to upgrade naval facilities in the north, which will include a new outer wharf at HMAS Coonawarra to support varying combinations of the Navy’s major surface combatant ships and submarines, and enhance the Australian Defence Force capability to conduct operations and exercises in the north of Australia.
“Defence has also committed a further $223 million to the Larrakeyah Barracks Redevelopment Project which, in part, will support Navy operations in the North.”
The project will also provide fuel storage and refuelling capabilities to meet current and projected demands.