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Address by the Governor-General aboard the Navy supply ship, HMAS Kanimbla [on its departure for Sumatra]: Darwin, NT.

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7 JANUARY 2005

Distinguished guests all, the crew of HMAS Kanimbla, it is a tremendous pleasure for Marlena and me to be with you this morning. Last year I had the privilege of presenting the Gloucester Cup to this ship as the Champion ship of the fleet and you’re champions again and I welcome this opportunity to be with you along with all your distinguished guests as you prepare to sail to Sumatra on what I believe to be a noble and humanitarian mission. And indeed Mrs Jeffery and I watched with pride from Admiralty House as you departed Sydney on New Years eve with the eyes and the thoughts of a million Sydneysiders, I’m sure, wishing you well as you departed the heads.

I think it’s been an incredible business - what you’ve achieved. I know that all of you virtually, were on Christmas and New Year’s leave and you got that telephone call or e-mail and here you are, a fully fitted out ships company with a lot of Army people and others prepared to go this tremendous mission. And I think it brings great credit to you and to your ship and thew defence force, the speed with which you have responded.

Australia’s response to this catastrophe, because that’s what it is, especially through the Defence Force, has been outstanding - the response has been swift, it has been generous and it’s been extremely competent and we are rightly committed to pursuing this enormous effort and have the resources to deal with this unprecedented disaster - so widespread, causing so much destruction to life, to property and to peoples futures.

The immediate focus of course is on trying to avoid further loss of life and to restore essential services. And you, our Amy and our Air Force men and women are in the front line - one of many front lines in recent years where Australian military effort has won widespread pause world-wide. Your professionalism, your enthusiasm and you’re compassion are to be admired. And, you are doing yourselves and Australia proud.

In trying to come to grips with the emotional aftermath of this huge disaster many Australians are finding consolation in our country’s generosity, in its resolve and in its spirit as represented through the carefully targeted and well orchestrated work of the ADF. And it’s in this context as Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief I want to add my thanks to those of the Australian nation in thanking you as members of the ADF for the contribution you are making and will continue to make to help rebuild the lives and the hopes of literally millions of people.

Each of us as Australians has a role to play and I’m absolutely delighted to say that everyone - the aid agencies, the corporate sector, the Australian public and each of you as members of the ADF has risen to

that challenge magnificently. The public alone has contributed 100-million already to this disaster and you, of course are the public face in the region and in the Australian media of our nation’s mammoth effort to ensure the effective and rapid distribution of aid to so many needs people. You are going to shape and complement the extraordinary level of public goodwill. And I know that you’ll do everything in your power to maintain and enhance that good will through the work that you’re about undertake.

So HMAS Kanimbla sails once again, well equipped to contribute to the job at hand, and together with the ships’ company there will be about 150 soldiers from the engineers - guys that are going to clear the rubble, re-establish the water points, help bury the dead, a most horrific task one that had to be done and done quickly and I guess, to help rebuild the infrastructure later on. The medical people on board are going to provide critically needed medical support. You’ve got helicopters to do their task, to get into areas where no one else can get to. And your clearance divers and survey people will look for proper beaches for landing. Thus ship will be a command centre, and it will be a very efficient one. So the roles that you’re about to undertake are critically important. Many of you have already experienced the work that will be done and you know it will be tough, that the hours will be long, but it should be splendidly rewarding as you deal with the immediate problems of food, water, shelter and health. But equally as important is the longer-term challenge - rebuilding lives and communities and restoring essential infrastructure. And Australia, as you’ve heard from the Government, is in for the long haul - an important element in continuing to build on our already good relationships within this region.

In concluding I notice that the original HMAS Kanimbla had a close connection with the Indonesian people. After being decommissioned in Sydney in 1949 and sold, she was named the ‘Oriental Queen’, chartered by the Indonesian Government, and spent three years transporting Indonesians making the pilgrimage to Jeddah. Your cargo today may not be pilgrims but the supplies, equipment and skills you are delivering will answer many prayers.

The prayers of our nation go with you, God speed, and do a mighty good job for the region and your country. Well done to you all, we’re very, very proud of each and every one of you. Thanks very much.