The life in the Navy for Zu – Keeping HMAS Choules safe

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Lana Emery (author), ABIS Kayla Hayes (photographer)

Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Zuleika Harper conducts maintenance on the Marine Evacuation System onboard HMAS Choules. (photo: ABIS Kayla Hayes)
Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Zuleika Harper conducts maintenance on the Marine Evacuation System onboard HMAS Choules.

HMAS Choules has a secret weapon, a quietly achieving Boatswains Mate.

Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Zuleika Harper, known to all shipmates as 'Zu', has had a busy year.  In January she was awarded an Australia Day Medallion 'for consistently displaying superior dedication to duty and professionalism' and now she and the rest of ship's company are hard at it, preparing for Exercise TALISMAN SABRE.

Able Seaman Harper is the Safety Equipment Maintainer on board Choules.  She checks, prepares and audits all the safety gear on board including every life jacket and helmet, the Fast Rescue Craft, and the Marine Evacuation System.  She provides instruction to ship’s company on techniques for launching life rafts and use of evacuation systems and is an essential part of the ship's ability to sail at sea, keeping all shipmates and passengers safe.  

Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Zuleika Harper keeps lookout responsibilities on the bridge of HMAS Choules.

Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Zuleika Harper keeps lookout responsibilities on the bridge of HMAS Choules.

Able Seaman Harper has undergone extensive training in the Royal Australian Navy in terms of using safety systems and equipment, and is considered an expert in the field. She also provides induction training for new ship mates and continuous training for the Marine Evacuation System and other safety equipment on board Choules including Patten 50N and Special Duties life Jackets, Life rafts, the 90 Man life boat and the Helicopter float bags for ditched Helicopter recoveries.  

‘The Marine Evacuation System Sweeper course was one of the best courses I’ve done in the Navy because it was hands on and we got to do the sweeping in the chute for real, rather then in a simulator or by theory,’ said Able Seaman Harper.

Though relatively new to the Royal Australian Navy, Able Seaman Harper is already experiencing traveling the world, having been involved in providing essential training requirements for initial officer training and also in providing aid to people from another country.  In conducting these activities, she went to New Zealand last year on board Choules with over 100 New Entry Officer Course trainees for their sea training program, which included a port visit to Auckland. 

‘This visit to Auckland was very special to me as my family come from New Zealand. My parents met at the Whitsundays, fell in love, married but decided to stay in Australia,” she said.

‘I am planning to spend as much time as possible with my Granddad, my aunties and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews and my sister, when I return for a holiday back to New Zealand in the near future.’

Able Seaman Harper received her Australia Day Medallion as a key member of the HMAS Choules Ship’s Company.  She used her time to the best effect, maintaining the ship’s operational capability on top of her watch with a cheerful demeanor causing a positive affect on her peers and fostering a professional attitude across the ship.  

Able Seaman Harper is definitely not one for sitting on her hands and a critical factor of her drive is a passion for her role.  She loves her job and her life onboard, and has specifically been enjoying the new experiences of being at sea and living and working within a team.

‘The best part about this posting on board is the crew and the chance to travel. To me, Choules is like a family away from home.’

Able Seaman Harper is looking forward to spending some time at home with her loved ones when the ship returns to her homeport of Sydney and having both some quiet time to herself and some time to get out and have fun with friends.

‘It will be great to see my family again, and with that comes the cultural side of it, with Māori backgrounds.

‘The best part about going home is seeing everyone and being able to eat whatever I want, whenever I want’.