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Annual Report 2014–15

Feature Articles

Defence helps out during Australia’s high-risk weather season

Australian Army engineers of the 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment use a JD450 Bulldozer and chainsaws to clear debris in the aftermath of Cyclone Marcia, 25 February 2015. They were part of the emergency support force operating in the remote community of Byfield near Yeppoon, Queensland.

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) continued to prove its responsiveness to local emergencies across the 2014–15 high-risk weather season by providing support to civil authorities during bushfires in Western Australia’s south-west and near Adelaide, and cyclones in the Northern Territory and on the central Queensland coast.

In January, RAAF Edinburgh supported South Australian Country Fire Service personnel responding to a 180-kilometre fire front in the Adelaide Hills by providing fuel and water for contracted fire-fighting aircraft.

In February 2015, Army Reserve personnel from 13th Brigade were called in to help Western Australian emergency officials respond to a major bushfire in the Northcliffe region of south-west Western Australia. RAAF Pearce was opened to civil aircraft to allow refuelling and access to water resupply.

Later in February, concurrent cyclones passed across the Northern Territory and Queensland coastlines, isolating remote communities and causing flood and wind damage.

Cyclone Lam damaged more than 100 houses in three communities on Elcho Island and in Arnhem Land. Following a request from the Northern Territory Government, an RAAF C-17A Globemaster III was deployed to RAAF Richmond to airlift stores and supplies for a 300-bed tent camp in the Northern Territory.

In response to Cyclone Marcia, Emergency Management Queensland requested support from the ADF with post-disaster assessment and recovery operations in Yeppoon and Rockhampton. An RAAF AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft and a King Air conducted wide-area surveillance of cities, towns, infrastructure and roads, while approximately 19 Army Reservists from a Rockhampton-based 11th Brigade unit provided debris clearance and clean-up assistance at Yeppoon State High School.

These troops were followed by the Engineering Support Group, a task group of about 200 soldiers from Townsville’s 3rd Brigade, along with specialist liaison and command staff supported by Taipan multi-role helicopters, which were used for reconnaissance and liaison tasks.

During the three-week mission, the Engineering Support Group completed the following tasks:

  • clean-up and clearance at 15 schools in Rockhampton, Byfield and Yeppoon
  • clean-up and clearance at the Rockhampton Botanical Gardens, the Rockhampton Zoo and the Kershaw Botanical Gardens, all of which suffered severe damage in the cyclone
  • clearance of more than 5 kilometres of strategic and tactical firebreaks in the Byfield area
  • clean-up and clearance of 18 major road culverts in Rockhampton and Biloela
  • clean-up, clearance and minor repairs at a Byfield wildlife sanctuary.