Confirming Canberra’s ready to aid

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Jessica Craig (author), ABIS Jarrod Mulvihill (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Canberra (L02), Defence Aid to Civil Community (DACC), Fleet Certification Period

A LHD Landing Craft enters the dock of HMAS Canberra whilst at anchor in Westernport Bay, Victoria, during a Defence Aid to the Civil Community exercise. (photo: ABIS Jarrod Mulvihill)
A LHD Landing Craft enters the dock of HMAS Canberra whilst at anchor in Westernport Bay, Victoria, during a Defence Aid to the Civil Community exercise.

HMAS Canberra recently took time out of Fleet Certification Period 2020 to emulate the conditions encountered by the Royal Australian Navy during Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST 19-20, and build on lessons learnt through conducting a Defence Assistance to Civil Communities exercise.

As part of Canberra’s Unit Readiness Evaluation, the Canberra Class LHD ‘evacuated’ approximately 500 role players and four dogs from HMAS Cerberus and transited them overnight to Melbourne.

Canberra’s Commanding Officer, Captain Terence Morrison, said it was important to continue to build on Navy’s humanitarian and disaster relief processes to ensure the force is always ready to respond both domestically and internationally.

“We are already an agile and capable force, ready to respond in times of need,” Captain Morrison said.

“However, conducting these exercises provides the opportunity to build on what we already do well, look for innovation points, and instill confidence both domestically and internationally that the Royal Australian Navy is well-prepared and ready to provide effective assistance if required.”

Captain Morrison said the crew looked closely at the excellent work carried out by HMA Ships Choules and Adelaide during Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST 19-20 and used the real-life experiences to plan and build on their own effectiveness and capability.

“We watched Choules and Adelaide closely during Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST, where they showed exceptional compassion and care for their fellow Australians,” Captain Morrison said.

"It has been our job to capture that approach and lessons learnt from the challenges faced, in order to build on our own capability and integrate them into our standard operating procedures."

As part of the exercise, Canberra used its two LHD Landing Craft to transit ‘evacuees’ from shore to ship. The ‘evacuees’ were catered to as they would be in a real life scenario with health screens conducted and sleeping arrangements, food, drink and pastoral requirements taken care of.

Petty Officer Boatswain Kenneth Bateson (right) assists a role playing evacuee disembark from a LHD landing craft onboard HMAS Canberra during a Defence Aid to the Civil Community exercise.

Petty Officer Boatswain Kenneth Bateson (right) assists a role playing evacuee disembark from a LHD landing craft onboard HMAS Canberra during a Defence Aid to the Civil Community exercise.

Lance Corporal Melissa Ellis from the Australian Army’s 4th Brigade was one of the role players and said it was rewarding to see Navy and Army working together for the benefit of Australians and partner nations.

“I just spent two months participating in Op BUSHFIRE ASSIST, so to be part of this exercise as a role player has been really eye opening, and it's interesting to see how Navy conducts these type of operations from their side,” Lance Corporal Ellis said.

“Coming in through the dock and seeing the ship up close and how the multi-service crew works together was phenomenal.

“The hospitality has been amazing and it solidifies for me that we are a world-leading Defence Force ready to assist in times of need.”

Following the DACC exercise, Canberra re-integrated into the Fleet Certification Period 2020 which runs until 6 March 2020.