By Lieutenant John Thomson

Hundreds of underprivileged schoolchildren rocked to the beat of the Australian Army band during the Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 (IPE19) port visit to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The school is part of the Dignity for Children Foundation, a Malaysian charity that seeks to break the cycle of poverty through education.  

“To see these kids on their feet dancing with pure joy in their faces was priceless."

The foundation started more than two decades ago with 20 students. It now educates more than 1000 poor and vulnerable children ranging in age from two to 17.

Commander Joint Task Force 661 Air Commodore Richard Owen (rear centre) and Commander Joint Operations Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld with Dignity for Children Organisation staff and students. Photo: Leading Seaman Kylie Jagiello

The students who attended the special concert screamed with delight when the Army band came on stage.

The Australian Commander of Joint Operations, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, was also in the audience. 

“I was moved by the response to the band’s performance,” Air Marshal Hupfeld said.

“To see these kids on their feet dancing with pure joy in their faces was priceless and goes to show how important IPE is not just from a defence relationship perspective but also for developing strong positive relationships with local communities.”

“This was a small but powerful way to demonstrate our enduring commitment to our partners in the region."

He was joined by the Commander of Joint Task Force 661, Air Commodore Richard Owen, who said engaging with local communities was an important part of IPE19.

“This was a small but powerful way to demonstrate our enduring commitment to our partners in the region,” Air Commodore Owen said.

The band’s vocalist, Musician Amelia Johnson, said performing in front of the children was electrifying.

“They were on their feet dancing, clapping, screaming … they made us feel like rock stars! It means so much that we’re able to bring such joy into other people’s lives,” Musician Johnson said.

HMA Ships Canberra, Newcastle and Success visited Malaysia after port visits to India and Sri Lanka.