Nine multi-skilled tradesmen from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) are not only helping keep the key construction project on track in Gapuwiyak, but have enabled the team to take on additional construction tasks for the local community.

Following a week of inductions and deployment preparations with 6th Engineer Support Regiment at RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland, RFMF members travelled to the Yolngu community in East Arnhem Land in mid-August.

Gapuwiyak, the 48th community to be assisted through the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Program (AACAP) in 25 years, is nestled on the shore of Lake Evella, about 220km west of Nhulunbuy, NT.

The key project for AACAP 2022 is the construction of an Independent Youth Centre for the Gapuwiyak community.

With the construction works scheduled for completion in mid-October, before the start of the wet season, it’s been all hands-on deck, with the RFMF and Australian Army tradespeople banding together to install the flooring, walls and decking joists.

“The RFMF hit the ground running as soon as they arrived and they’ve been such a big help on site,” Troop Commander Lieutenant Joseph Chilvers said.

“They’ve not only brought a wide variety of trade skills, but they’re providing the power to keep us on track with the construction works.”

Having previously worked alongside members of the ADF in Fiji last year to rebuild schools damaged by Tropical Cyclone Yasa, Sapper Eremasi Masirewa Vasu, a trainee instructor with the RFMF Engineers Corps’ Training Unit, saw the opportunity to deploy on AACAP as a learning experience.

“We’re here to help but in Fiji we don’t have some of the power tools the Army have here, such as the nail gun, so we’re learning a lot here,” Sapper Vasu said.

“I carry a notebook around with me so I can write down everything I learn.

“The Aussies are very helpful and they trust that as soon as we switch on, we can get the work done.

“We’re all so happy to help because it’s a blessing to be here.”

With the RFMF’s support and willingness to lend a hand, the AACAP contingent were able to take on the additional task of refurbishing the local church, which had fallen into disrepair.

“The RFMF took a lot of pride in helping us refurbish the local church for the Gapuwiyak community,” Lieutenant Chilvers said.

“Everyone chipped in together and, in just one week, we repaired a wall, installed new electrical wiring, lighting and fans, and repainted the whole church.

“The community were so excited they’ve already started holding ceremonies on a regular basis.”

With personal relationships forming between the contingents, two-way cultural learning has been appreciated all around.

“We went fishing on the beach at Yalliquin and they cooked the fish in a traditional lovo,” Lieutenant Chilvers said.

“It was delicious.

“In return we showed them how to play AFL.”

Australian Army soldiers work together with RFMF soldiers to construct an Independent Youth Centre.