Training Ship Pioneer enjoys Freedom of Entry to Mackay

Published on Australian Navy Cadets LEUT Linda McKenna (author), Photos by Nell (photographer)

Location(s): Mackay, QLD

Topic(s): Australian Navy Cadets, Freedom of Entry

Cadets, instructors and officers of Training Ship Pioneer exercise their right to Freedom of Entry to the City of Mackay, Qld. (photo: Photos by Nell)
Cadets, instructors and officers of Training Ship Pioneer exercise their right to Freedom of Entry to the City of Mackay, Qld.

With swords drawn, band playing, drums beating and flags flying, the cadets, instructors and officers of Training Ship Pioneer exercised their right to Freedom of Entry to the City of Mackay this month.

The Freedom of Entry march was part of 60th anniversary celebrations for the Australian Navy Cadets unit.

It was just the second time in history that TS Pioneer had been granted Freedom of Entry by the Mackay Mayor, the first being in 2009 for its 50th anniversary celebrations.

The chance to honour this long-standing military tradition meant the next generation of cadets were able to experience this parade of significant importance, which symbolises the trust between a military force and a city.

When challenged by Superintendent Glen Morris of the Mackay Police, as per the normal custom of a Freedom of Entry march, Cadet Petty Officer Felicity Huxhagen presented him with a scroll signed by Mackay Mayor, Greg Williamson, granting the unit permission to march through the city.

Special guests at the ceremony included the Director of Australian Navy Cadets, Commodore David Greaves, Victoria Cross Recipient Mr Keith Payne and Mrs Florence Payne OAM.

The Commanding Officer of Training Ship Pioneer, Cadet Lieutenant Todd Gavin, said it was very meaningful to the unit to have Keith Payne VC at the Freedom of Entry March.

“We are so proud to have Australia’s oldest living VC recipient, Keith Payne, as our patron.

“He regularly attends the unit’s activities in support of the youth in Mackay.

“We were honoured have Mr Payne attend this year’s Freedom of Entry into Mackay City.

“The cadets admire him and his story,” ANC Lieutenant Gavin said.

Training Ship Pioneer’s three life members, Cadet Lieutenant Commander David Hope (Ret’d), Cadet Lieutenant Commander Paul Kelly and Cadet Lieutenant Commander Gary Rovelli (Ret’d), all former Commanding Officers, were also in attendance.

“Full credit must go to the cadets for the way the event was conducted,” ANC Lieutenant Gavin said.

“Over and over again, they never fail to exemplify the values of the Australian Navy Cadets, being Honour, Honesty, Courage, Integrity and Loyalty,” he said.

Although recruiting is not the purpose of the Navy Cadets program, Training Ship Pioneer has a proud history of past cadets going on to join the Navy, including high ranking Royal Australian Navy Officers Rear Admiral Peter Quinn and Captain Andrew Quinn.

Currently there are four former recent cadets at HMAS Cerberus at different stages of recruit and category training.

Since being officially recognised in 1959, Training Ship Pioneer has seen hundreds of young people through the gates.

Over 60 years, they have regularly won the award for best unit in the ‘state/flotilla’, also winning the best unit in Australia a handful of times.

Training Ship Pioneer has always been a very strong unit, parading an average of 40 cadets. At its biggest, the unit grew to 70 cadets.

A lot of the success of Training Ship Pioneer comes down to the strong bond and passion for youth development held by its staff, starting 60 years ago and continuing now.

The unit’s history is strong and something that current staff are passionate about protecting and making sure continues on into the future.

Its first life member, Cadet Lieutenant Commander David Hope (Ret’d), who was inducted in 2017, was one of the first cadets to join in 1959, with his name appearing on the very first roll on that first official parade night. 

David then went onto become a staff member and worked his way up to Commanding Officer, before retiring. He still has an active interest in the unit, and regularly helps out with sail boat maintenance.

With the excellent support of the Royal Australian Navy, Training Ship Pioneer has been able to provide its cadets with many resources, including the addition of new kayaks in 2018.

Cadets have had the opportunity to go on board many Royal Australian Navy Ships over the years when the vessels have visited the Mackay port, and seven cadets recently completed an 11 day sea ride in HMAS Choules from Cairns to Melbourne. 

Over the last two years, six cadets have the opportunity to do a 10 day voyage on Sail Training Ship Young Endeavour, which is a life changing experience for all who participate.

It is these opportunities that make the Australian Navy Cadets a premier youth development organisation, and enables Training Ship Pioneer in particular to excel at training and mentoring the future young adults of their community.