22 October 2013
Speech by Australia’s High Commissioner to PNG Ms Deborah Stokes on HMAS Choules
21 October 2013
Mr John Porti, Secretary of the PNGDF
Mr Martin Bowles PSM, Secretary of Department of Immigration and Border Protection
Commander Ashley M. Papp, RAN and crew of the HMAS Choules
Chief Migration Officer of PNG, Mr Mataio Rabura
Name of senior PNGDF officer
COL Dick Parker, Head of Australian Defence Staff
PNG and Australian Defence Force personnel
Staff of the Manus Processing Centre
Ladies and Gentleman
It is a great pleasure to be here in Manus and on the HMAS Choules tonight.
I wish to thank Commander Ashley Papp and his crew for hosting this reception.
Not only is this an occasion to recognise the conclusion of your tour of duty here in PNG.
It is also an occasion for bringing together many of the people that have been involved in the very intense period of activity since July when the PNG and Australian Governments agreed to deepen further their cooperation against people smuggling.
Most importantly for me and for the Australian Government it is our opportunity to say thank you to you, Commander Papp, and your crew for the tremendous work you have been doing in support of the Regional Processing Centre.
HMAS Choules was diverted from Exercise TALISMAN SABRE, which was conducting amphibious exercises off the Queensland coast since April.
Instead of returning to base and to their homes, the crew left Cairns on 30 July and arrived on Manus on 5 August
HMAS Choules has been away for 223 days since Easter 2013 with 3 weeks in Sydney and 2 weeks in Cairns in that time.
The Choules has performed an invaluable role for the RPC as it provided the accommodation capacity off-shore which allowed essential upgrading and expansion work to be carried out on the Centre.
The two Governments’ goals would not have been met if we had not had the support of the Choules .
The ship and its crew have provided accommodation, life support, and transportation to and from ship.
The crew have been extraordinarily welcoming to the staff of the Centre, going out of their way to make them feel very welcome and at home.
There has been an average of around 400 people on board every night
There have been up to 20 boat trips per day 6 days a week.
The Crew of the Choules has also provided support to Defence Cooperation Program in PNG through training in a number of areas.
They have participated in sporting matches with the PNGDF.
They have helped to with some maintenance jobs on Lombrum base.
On PNG Independence Day Australian Defence Force personnel including RAN crew from the Choules marched alongside PNGDF in Lorengau.
The ship will depart on 31 October.
It will have short stops in Cairns and Townsville before going to Sydney for maintenance works, including repairs and upgrades to some vital equipment.
Then HMAS Choules will be ready on 20 Dec for its readiness for disaster response over the cyclone season.
I want to underline our enormous appreciation for the contribution HMAS Choules has made to the RPC and the two Governments’ goals.
It has been a great privilege to stay on the ship and to see your professionalism in action.
In recognition of the contribution you have made it is my pleasure to present to you, Commander Papp, and your crew this Certificate of Appreciation.
I invite everyone here tonight to join me in expressing our deep appreciation.