A right royal celebration

Published on LEUT Cheyne Colley (author)

Distinguished guests gather in Tonga for the coronation of Their Majesties King Tupou VI and Queen Nanasipau’u. (photo: )
Distinguished guests gather in Tonga for the coronation of Their Majesties King Tupou VI and Queen Nanasipau’u.

HMAS Leeuwin arrived in Nuku’alofa, Tonga on 3 July, to support the coronation of Their Majesties King Tupou VI and Queen Nanasipau’u.

The Australian Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), and Lady Cosgrove represented the the people of Australia at the event.

Festivities began with an ancient kava ceremony and gifts of pigs and yams from the country’s chiefs. While the ship was not present for the full 11 days of festivities, they were present for key activities in the coronation program.

Commanding Officer Leeuwin, Lieutenant Commander Richard Mortimer and members of his crew were invited to an official reception the night before the coronation, hosted by his Royal Highness the Crown Prince Tupouto’a ‘Ulukalala at the Fa’onelua Convention Centre.

They were also invited to observe a military parade featuring the His Majesty’s Armed Forces in honour of the coronation, which left a lasting impression on Lieutenant Mitchell Kerr.

“I was impressed by the drill and discipline of His Majesty’s Armed Forces at the Military Parade,” he said.

A large Military Tattoo followed, comprising members from local school bands, the Tongan Royal Corps of Musicians, the United States Marine Corps, and both the Australian and New Zealand Army Bands.

Leeuwin, together with New Zealand ship HMNZS Otago, hosted an official reception attended by Lord Fielakepa, the Tongan Deputy Prime minister and members of the Tongan Cabinet as well as to commemorate the final stages of the coronation. 

Lieutenant Kerr, the Guard Commander at the ceremonial sunset said being invited to take part was a privilege.

“It was an honour to perform one of the Royal Australian Navy’s oldest traditions in front of so many people and in support of Their Majesties' coronations.”

At the official reception, Otago’s ship's company performed a traditional Maori song and dance followed by the Royal New Zealand Navy Kapa Haka.

Australia strongly values the relationship with the Tongan military, and continues to expand cooperation. Tonga is regarded as an important security partner in the region, capable of contributing force elements to future regional operations.

Leeuwin is currently deployed on a three month south-west Pacific deployment.  The Hydrographic Survey ship has also taken part a in tri-laterial high seas fisheries patrol.