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Reconnaissance and aid drops to areas
cut-off from help became one of the main
Platoon was active in the Atherton
Tablelands, reporting on damage in remote
communities that the helicopters could
not access because of heavy cloud.
Elsewhere, a field kitchen prepared
more than 1500 fresh meals for displaced
locals. Shower facilities were also
provided to bridge the gap until water
could be reconnected.
One of the subtle aspects of the
uniformed presence was the stabilising
effect. For example, as the initial
emergency eased, schools became the
focus for engineers who repaired roofing,
boarded up broken windows, reconnected
water services, cleared fallen trees and
made powerlines safe.
Operation Vic Fire Assist – 2009
Defence’s contribution to the Victorian
bushfire relief effort saw seven weeks of
operations in support of the Victorian
government and peaked around 850
Under the transition to recovery and
reconstruction, emergency services
originally provided by the ADF were
transitioned to local councils, state
government agencies and commercial
contractors. This transfer of responsibility
was phased in during a number of weeks
and communicated clearly to the local
MAJGEN John Cantwell was appointed
as the interim head of the Victorian
Bushfire Recovery and Reconstruction
Authority (VBRRA). He, along with a small
team of military staff, helped establish
the Authority until the former Victorian
Police Commissioner, Christine Nixon,
assumed the lead role.
Defence provided emergency sleeping
arrangements for fire-affected families
and emergency workers. Emergency
workers were also accommodated at
Defence establishments RAAF Base East
Sale, Simpson Barracks, Watsonia and the
Puckapunyal Military Area.
Defence provided major support to
the Kinglake Relief Centre through the
provision of kitchen facilities, health
and sanitation support, as well as water
distribution and rubbish disposal.
In the first fortnight after the bushfires,
troops searched about 120 square
kilometres of fire-damaged areas, which
included around 1300 houses.
The Joint Task Force teams conducted
thorough and methodical searches of 817
premises, while the Engineer Support
Group, including seven heavy plant
machines and two chainsaw sections,
constructed more than 75 kilometres of
fire breaks and cleared 35 kilometres of
roads. They also helped clear unsafe trees
from the affected communities.
Specialist engineers assisted police with
hazardous search tasks, including training
searchers in safe procedures.
An Air Force AP-3C Orion aircraft
provided aerial imagery of bushfire-
affected areas during the first two weeks.
Two Navy A109 helicopters provided
rapid movement of personnel around the
A wide range of other Defence logistic
support was provided to the relief effort to
enhance the supply of aid into the area.
Medical and counselling teams to support
Joint Task Force personnel and residents
in some of the affected communities were
also deployed by Defence.
Flood Assist – 2011
Following the surge in ADF support to
the civil-led response to the flood crisis in
Queensland, the Commander of Joint Task
Force 637, Colonel Luke Foster, handed
over command to Brigadier Paul McLachlan,
Commander of the Brisbane-based 7th
The Chief of Joint Operations Command,
Lieutenant General Mark Evans, said the
significant increase in the ADF commitment
to Operation Queensland Flood Assist
and the nature of future ADF support
necessitated a transfer of command.
BRIG McLachlan said taking over a
standing Joint Task Force meant he and his
team had enough time to conduct a close
analysis of the Emergency Management
Framework. They looked at where liaison
teams were needed and where the standing
liaison teams were located and whether
they needed reinforcing or relocating.
“That worked really well for us
because the excellent liaison teams
that were already in place had formed
great relationships, but there were other
places that were more relevant to the
reconstruction effort,” BRIG McLachlan said.
At the peak of the flood crisis, the
ADF provided more than 1900 regular
A local Dirranbandi boy is captivated by the arrival of an Australian Army 5th Aviation Ch-47 Chinook helicopter with basic
necessities for his isolated township in south-west Queensland. Photo: Corporal Rachel Ingram
Queensland Fire and Rescue Service and the Australian Army’s
C Squadron 5th Aviation Regiment Aircrew assist with the loading
of temporary accommodation onto a CH-47 Chinook helicopter
bound for Condamine, Queensland. Photo: Corporal Rachel Ingram
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