The RAN's oldest ship, First Lady of the Fleet HMAS Paluma IV, has conducted a final Freedom of Entry in the lead up to decommissioning next month.
The Freedom of Entry tradition dates back to medieval times when armed groups, including troops would request access to fortress communities for food and shelter, in return for protecting fortress residents.
Twenty crew members of Paluma requested Freedom of Entry on Saturday August 7 in the main street of the ship’s namesake town, Paluma in North Queensland, about an hour and a half out of garrison city Townsville.
Police Inspector Dave Crosby formally challenged Commanding Officer Paluma Lieutenant Commander Craig Hamilton and his crew before acknowledging their right and privilege to enter the township.
Lieutenant Commander Hamilton said it was an honour and privilege to reconnect with the town before the ship is farewelled.
“The Paluma crew are honoured to join the City of Townsville Council and residents of Paluma to conduct this historic ceremony for the final time before the ship decommissions next month,” Lieutenant Commander Hamilton said.
“We were last granted Freedom of Entry to Paluma in October 1990, the year after the ship commissioned, so it is fitting to conduct a final one as we embark upon our decommissioning journey.”
Nywaigi traditional owner Scott Anderson delivered a welcome to country before City of Townsville Councillor Margie Ryder, representing city Mayor Jenny Hill, joined HMAS Cairns Commanding Officer Glenn Williams as the reviewing officers for the parading sailors.
Councillor Ryder said the community were thrilled to have the Navy back in Paluma.
“This is quite a significant event given our city’s proud history as a garrison city and our ongoing relationship with the Australian Defence Force, I’m thrilled we were able conduct a Freedom of Entry and play a role in Paluma’s final voyage,” Councillor Ryder said.
Locals and visitors lined the streets to watch the Freedom of Entry and joined the crew for tea and coffee after the official ceremony.
Paluma is the first of class of the Paluma Class Survey Motor Launches and will decommission with HMAS Mermaid in Cairns in September.
During its 32 years’ of service, the ship has played an active role in providing maritime environment data to assist both military and commercial vessels to safely navigate the waters surrounding Australia.
The ship is the fourth Paluma to serve with the RAN.