The story of the HMAS Choules will forever be linked to the story of Mallacoota and the East Gippsland bushfires.
Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester visited the Choules this week in Darwin and thanked the crew for their service during what was a difficult time for the local community.
“The people of Gippsland are so very grateful for the assistance provided over the summer by the Australian Defence Force (ADF), but in particular the crew of the Choules,” Mr Chester said.
“The mass evacuation of Mallacoota was a sight I never thought I would see, but was one that was carried out with professionalism and care.
“It was a mammoth effort with some 1500 people evacuated along with dogs, cats, pet birds and even a rabbit.
“It was my absolute privilege to personally thank the crew of the Choules for their service and convey how much their support was welcomed.”
The ship’s company returned from Christmas leave to sail for the fire-ravaged Victorian coast on New Year’s Day as part of Operation Bushfire Assist.
Mr Chester said the presence of the ADF immediately boosted morale and provided support through practical action.
“Those in Mallacoota were traumatised after bushfires swept through and the ADF personnel on the ground showed compassion and empathy under such difficult circumstances,” Mr Chester said.
“Their presence alone gave great comfort to many and will not be forgotten, not only by those in Mallacoota but throughout Gippsland and the country.
“I will be working with the Chief of Navy to make sure the story is properly recorded and our links with the Choules are strengthened in the future.
“Thank you again to the crew of the Choules for providing comfort and safety to all those in Mallacoota and for working together with the community in solidarity during such a challenging time.”