A show of respect

22 May 2024

In a first for the Whitsunday region, members of the 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment (3CER) conducted a freedom-of-entry parade at Airlie Beach on May 11.

Despite being granted freedom of entry in 2017 in recognition of their invaluable assistance in Bowen following Tropical Cyclone Debbie, the parade was not held until this year because of the cyclone damage and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commander 3rd Brigade Brigadier Dave McCammon said after Cyclone Debbie made landfall on March 28, 2017, the regiment deployed its high-risk weather season contingency to Bowen two days later to provide immediate response to North Queensland.

“The engineers you see here today are at home clearing mines, setting up obstacles, building bridges and infrastructure,” he said.

“But as we saw during the cyclone, they are equally capable of meeting the needs of the community.”

Andrew Willcox, Mayor of the Whitsundays region at the time of the cyclone, said the parade was granted to 3CER for the regiment’s support.

“I don’t think people fully understood how much damage was actually done; it was the costliest cyclone to hit Queensland,” Mr Willcox said. 

“There were trees down, mess everywhere; we had no water, no sewage system and no power. 

“When 3CER arrived, you could feel a sense that the military was there and we were safe.”

Major Liam Clarke, who deployed with 3CER as part of the Cyclone Debbie contingency, said it was great to return to the community to exercise the freedom of entry. 

“I missed the granting of freedom, as I was deployed, so this is my first time back to Airlie Beach since the cyclone,” Major Clarke said. 

“It is very special to be able to see the impression the regiment left on the community and the gratitude that they still have for the support provided during that time.”

Whitsunday Region Council Mayor Ry Collins said it was a significant occasion.

“This is an opportunity for the Whitsunday region to show our respect and gratitude to the regiment for helping get us back on our feet after the turmoil,” Mr Collins said.

“We are demonstrating our trust and commitment to building a strong relationship with the ADF.

“Today, we reinforce our commitment to support each other in times of peace and throughout times of challenge.”



Story type

Related services



Recommended stories