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Tonga joins forces with Army to help Aboriginal communities.



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Media contacts Catherine Fitzpatrick (Senator Hill) 02 6277 7800 0405 351 245

Defence Media Liaison 02 6265 3343 0408 498 664

www.defence.gov.au

MEDIA RELEASE SENATOR THE HON ROBERT HILL Minister for Defence Leader of the Government in the Senate

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Thursday, 5 August 2004 152/2004

TONGA JOINS FORCES WITH ARMY TO HELP ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services Army Community Assistance Program (AACAP) is set to be boosted with engineers from the Tonga Defence Service (TDS) joining Army’s 21 Construction Squadron from next week, Defence Minister Robert Hill announced today.

A team of 10 engineers from Tonga is being sponsored under the Defence Cooperation Program and will assist in the construction of houses in the remote communities of Injinoo and Umagico, near Bamaga, in far north Queensland.

Defence has a long history of engagement with the security forces in the South Pacific region through the Defence Cooperation Program. This includes assistance in strategic planning, training and infrastructure development.

“The Defence Cooperation Program is an important feature of Australia’s Defence relationships throughout the region,” Senator Hill said.

“Through the program, Australia works closely with its partners to build the capacity of regional security forces and promote mutual security objectives.”

This exercise follows a very successful joint exercise held in 2003, in which the TDS Rural Development Unit worked closely with members of 21 Construction Squadron to build a new Defence Headquarters building in Tonga, funded through the DCP.

“This attachment will build on the skills transfer achieved through the earlier joint exercise and help to enhance operational cooperation between the ADF and the TDS,” Senator Hill said.

“It will also help to develop reciprocal ADF/TDS project planning, construction management and construction skills, and improve cross-cultural understanding between the TDS and the Australian Army - while providing real benefits to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”

AACAP is a cooperative initiative between ATSIS, the Department of Health and Ageing and the Department of Defence to provide assistance to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in order to improve community environmental health conditions.

Army supports AACAP through the provision of project management, construction, health and training outcomes to the Northern Peninsula Area indigenous communities.