Stranded Aussies welcomed aboard C-130

23 May 2024

Around 70 Australians and foreign nationals boarded an Air Force C-130J Hercules on May 21, the first ADF repatriation flight out of New Caledonia.

The ADF provided assistance in support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-led response to repatriate Australian citizens, permanent visa holders and approved foreign nationals to Australia.

Many of the passengers were anxiously awaiting a flight home after being stranded in the wake of unrest, which led the South Pacific island to declare a state of emergency.

Among the passengers to board the C-130J Hercules were Port Macquarie couple Robyn and Hermin Van Harren, both in their 70s.

They had been on the island to take time out and relax as Hermin has leukaemia, but their dream holiday turned sour when the unrest started.

Mrs Van Harren said she was very relieved and grateful for the ride home and that the locals had been very accommodating and willing to share their limited food supplies.

Another couple, Simon and Anna Buckeridge from Port Douglas, said, “The situation has been quite stressful to be honest. We are quite relieved to be going home.”

Also on holiday in Noumea was Australian Army Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Powell and his family.

“It was OK for three days but things went bad on the Monday. We’ve been under curfew … with my wife and child,” Lieutenant Colonel Powell said.

“Normally I’m on the other side of the ADF helping others, but on this occasion I needed help from our own people.”

ADF contingent leader Flight Lieutenant Thomas Rogers, of 383 Squadron, said the ADF crew were on standby and ready to assist with flights as soon as the Australian Government was given diplomatic clearance to land at the Pacific island.

“On board the aircraft was a small contingent of medical, security and maintenance personnel, as well as DFAT and Australian Border Force staff to enable the swift processing of passengers,” he said.

Flight Lieutenant Rogers said the ADF contingent deployed on short notice and established a staging area at RAAF Base Amberley with government officials to assist with planning the assisted flights home.

“Key considerations included the requirement for safe passage of the stranded Australians from their accommodation to the pickup location at Noumea’s Magenta Airport,” Flight Lieutenant Rogers said.

“The ADF was able to provide rapid planning and remain agile until the situation on the ground stabilised to enable the deployed contingent to execute the repatriation plan in support of DFAT.”



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