ADF personnel have participated in a key leadership engagement with traditional owners from the flood-hit Fitzroy Crossing region of Western Australia.
The meeting allowed the community leaders to tell their individual stories from one of the worst-hit areas of the flooding that followed Tropical Cyclone Ellie, as well as highlight ongoing challenges in accessing critical supplies.
Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Wright said the meeting had highlighted the resilience of the local communities and allowed ADF to explain its role in the flood response process.
“Our message is that we’re here to help and that we are providing the necessary support to the Department of Fire and Emergency Services as the lead agency,” Lieutenant Colonel Wright said.
“We also assured the community leaders that our available aviation assets would continue to operate at a high rate of effort when it comes to delivering goods and essential services to the region.”
The airstrip at Fitzroy Crossing was initially cut off due to flooding but has now opened with ADF aircraft delivering supplies and personnel into region.
ADF is also moving in an 11-person air traffic control element to support the staff at the local airstrip as there is an increased volume of fixed and rotary wing aircraft operating in the area.
ADF Indigenous Liaison Officer Flight Lieutenant Tramaine Dukes said engaging with community leaders should be “business as usual” for all humanitarian aid and disaster response missions.
“Taking the time to yarn with traditional owners of the area shows respect and builds much needed trust within Aboriginal communities,” she said.
Flight Lieutenant Dukes, in conjunction with community leaders, has also been facilitating cultural briefings for ADF staff before they head out into the communities, with more than 100 personnel attending briefs so far.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Colonel Wright said there was a positive sentiment towards ADF in the region, with NORFORCE’s Kimberley Squadron having done a lot of community engagement previously.
“Defence has some long-standing relationships in the region and NORFORCE is part of that story,” Lieutenant Colonel Wright said.
“Many people in the community either know someone who has served or is currently serving in Defence, so that relationship allows us to build on existing trust.”