30 January 2023
What was a river became a 50km wide stretch of water threatening the lives of thousands of cattle in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, following Tropical Cyclone Ellie.
Yeeda Station sits on the last spot of land before the Fitzroy River reaches the sea just 30km from Derby.
With roads washed away and cattle stranded on pockets of land sitting just above the water line, station manager Jack Andrews has had a stressful couple of weeks.
“You don’t sleep well at night when you can’t get out to assist your livestock,” Mr Andrews said.
“Cattle on islands with no access to fodder is a massive animal welfare issue, and very concerning with no feed to give them.”
So it was a welcome sight when an Army MRH-90 Taipan flew in to the station on January 23 with cattle feed slung below it.
The helicopter, from Townsville’s 5th Aviation Regiment, was delivering the 1200kg load from a storage site 60 kilometres away. It was just part of a delivery of 8.5 tonnes of fodder.
The airlift is the only option until infrastructure is repaired and roads reopened.
The air bridge team comprises six members of Army’s 176 Air Dispatch Squadron - four at the source lacing the load into a net and attaching it to the hovering MRH-90, and two receiving the load under a cloud of red dust kicked up by the downdraft of the helicopter at Yeeda Station.
Leading the team of dispatchers is Corporal Emily Haynes.
“Air support to areas struck by the floods is an important service we provide,” Corporal Haynes said.
“Key for us is using our experience on the ground, knowing where the load needs to go, and keeping good communication with the aircrew above us.
“It’s really good to give back to the community, and the farmers to get the feed they need. Definitely challenging in the heat but rewarding – 100 per cent.”
As the flood waters will impact Yeeda Station for some time, Jack Andrews said the delivery provided welcome respite from the worry of dwindling feed for his hungry livestock.
“It’s massive for us to be able to supply fodder for our cattle, and I’m so grateful that Defence was involved with this. A big thank you to the team,” he said.