Nothing standing in her way

Published on LCDR Dave Devlin (author), POIS Nina Fogliani (photographer)

Topic(s): Recruit School, Emms Division

Graduating member of General Entry 382 - Emms Division, Recruit Monique Murray during her Graduation Parade held at Recruit School in HMAS Cerberus, Victoria. (photo: POIS Nina Fogliani)
Graduating member of General Entry 382 - Emms Division, Recruit Monique Murray during her Graduation Parade held at Recruit School in HMAS Cerberus, Victoria.

Australia has lived through some very tough times recently, but not even bushfires, flooding rains or a global pandemic have stopped one Blue Mountains resident from fulfilling her desire to challenge herself.

Recruit Monique Murray was one of 120 sailors to recently graduate from Recruit School at HMAS Cerberus as part of General Entry 382 Emms Division.

While living with her family in the NSW town of Kurrajong in October 2019, a lightning strike created the Gospers Mountain ‘mega-blaze’ fire that burnt through 512,000 hectares across the Lithgow, Hawkesbury, Hunter Valley, Cudgegong, Blue Mountains and Central Coast areas, an area equivalent to seven times the size of Singapore.

“The fire had major effects on the many communities affected,” Recruit Murray said.

“The sight of many houses and businesses burning down, as well as the effect it had on the wildlife and the people certainly had its impacts on me as well.”

“I had to have multiple days off work because the unpredictability of the conditions meant you didn’t know when the fire was going to hit.”

“On the really bad days the sky would constantly be red and on most days, it would be raining ash and blackened eucalyptus leaves.”

“Our generators were ready in preparation for losing power, all fire hoses set up between and around our houses. Each household had personal belongings packed in cars in case we were forced to leave, but we also had protective clothing laid out in case we had to withstand the fire,” She said.

After 79 days of intense firefighting efforts and temperatures as high as 45 degrees, the weather changed and heavy rain fell across the entire area.

While this helped extinguish the fire it also caused flash flooding throughout the Hawkesbury area.

“I was housesitting my mother’s house in Glenmore Park and taking care of the animals, Recruit Murray said.

“I was driving home and became the last car permitted to cross Richmond Bridge before it was closed.”

“As I was crossing, the water was touching the very top of the bridge. It was only a few moments later you could no longer see the bridge.”

“I was stranded for three days, there was no power - it was a very confronting situation.”

“When I was finally able to drive back to my mother’s house, the full gravity of the situation of both the fires and the floods were a real eye-opener.”

Recruit Murray said she decided to join the Navy before these disasters occurred, but the experience of living through them never deterred the former Penrith City Council employee from the goal she desired.

“I wanted to challenge myself, I also wanted to make my family proud and also make myself proud by serving my country,” she said.

“Having to spend the first two weeks segregated from others because of the global pandemic was a challenge, but the Recruit School staff have been a huge support, in making sure we had plenty of contact with our families.

“The support they have given all of us who are going through the same process has been fantastic.

“As a cohort group, we are all experiencing the same restrictions, so it’s been great to share problems and strategies and support each other to achieve what we have up to this point.”

The Royal Australian Navy’s Recruit School, at HMAS Cerberus in Victoria, segregates new Recruits for their first 14 days while they train.

This allows staff to monitor the health of the new Recruits while ensuring the health of those already in training is maintained, along with the health of the training staff themselves and the wider base population.

The segregation comes in addition to other measures already in place including increased personal hygiene and cleaning, social distancing practices, and training in smaller cohort groups. This will now also include the wearing of masks, in line with Victorian State government requirements.

All recruits are required to remain confined to the base throughout their 11 week General Service Duties Recruit Course, limiting their interaction with the local community.

Despite these imposed restrictions, the Recruit School has been able to deliver each of the required training outcomes, and deliver it safely to more than 600 graduates this year.

“Graduating has been the best experience thus far,” Recruit Murray said.

“I have maintained contact with family as much as I could, it’s been tough not seeing them - it’s also been the first time I have missed celebrating my birthday with my twin sister.”

“I look back upon the last 12 months, I am a very optimistic person, and I always know there are people worse off than myself and I don’t see my mountains as hard to climb.”

“I’ve been able to see via Facebook and social media that the recovery of my home area is starting to take shape and the community is very resilient and will always band together to keep the support going for each other,” She said.

“The personal challenges I have experienced thus far with Navy Recruit training, have proven to me that I am capable beyond my own mental limits to face adversity, for this, I am extremely proud and looking forward to the next phase in my new career.”