15 March 2023
Vanuatu media outlets got a pleasant surprise when the Commanding Officer of HMAS Canberra, Captain Jace Hutchison, greeted them in their local language.
With family connections in Vanuatu, Captain Hutchison spent a good part of his teenage years in the town of Luganville on Espiritu Santo Island and in the capital Port Vila.
Canberra arrived on the afternoon of March 9, at the request of the Vanuatu Government, and is providing support to Australia’s humanitarian assistance and disaster relief response following Tropical Cyclones Judy and Kevin.
While Captain Hutchison admitted his Bislama language skills were a bit rusty, it was enough to draw smiles and praise from the print, radio and television journalists gathered on the ship.
“My stepmother’s father was part of the team that built the original cruise wharf in Port Vila, and I have very fond memories of my time spent here in the 1990s and 2000s,” he said.
“I am very, very proud that I can come back here, a place with strong family ties, and be a part of the Defence support efforts.”
The media gained first-hand experience of the landing helicopter dock platform and its capabilities, arriving on one of its embarked Army CH-47 Chinook helicopters and returning to Port Vila on one the ship’s landing craft.
Canberra and its crew sailed from Sydney at the request of the Vanuatu Government, with nearly 300 embarked force personnel, three Chinook helicopters, over 40 vehicles, small boats, landing craft and a range of humanitarian supplies and logistical support.