Four engineers from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) are working alongside ADF personnel in the clean-up and recovery efforts in flood-affected areas around Port Macquarie.
The RFMF members – who arrived in Australia in early March for training exercises – are embedded with Army’s 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment to support Operation NSW Flood Assist.
Over the past week, the team has cleared roads, delivered fodder to stranded livestock, conducted bridge repairs and transported community members home, some of whom had been unable to return to their homes for more than a week due to floodwaters and inaccessible roads.
Fijian Sapper Luke Sorovakarua was already in Brisbane training with the 7th Combat Brigade when the heavy rain started and he was quickly re-tasked to support the ADF’s flood response.
He said he enjoyed his work and it gave him the opportunity to broaden his knowledge.
“I was attending some courses here, but what I’m doing at the floods is relevant to my courses, too,” Sapper Sorovakarua said.
“I really like working with Australian engineers because when I go back home to Fiji, I’ll take something new with me. This operation helps me as a plant operator.
“I love the machines they use and what we’ve been working on.”
This was his second operation in Australia in 12 months.
Early last year during Operation Bushfire Assist, he was clearing roads of debris to support Australians in need, an effort that earned him the Chief of the Defence Force Commendation.
Sapper Sorovakarua said he wanted to come back to Australia in the future.
“The period of time I’m spending here is short, but I’d like to further my military career by coming back to Australia for an extended period, like a year, to be on exchange which would be perfect for me,” he said.
“I’ve been asking my Sergeant a lot of questions about learning through an exchange program with the ADF.
“I find it very easy working with the Australian Army.”
Chief of the Defence Force General Angus Campbell said the two-way support between Australia and Fiji in times of crisis was a critical feature of the mutually beneficial defence partnership.
“As the serious flood emergency in NSW unfolded, Fijian Prime Minister Bainimarama was one of the first people to reach out to Defence and offer support,” General Campbell said.
“With members of the RFMF already on exercises in Brisbane, the four engineers were redeployed to support Operation NSW Flood Assist.”
Commander of the Joint Task Group 629.1 Brigadier Mick Garraway said about 680 ADF personnel were now supporting the NSW Government-led recovery efforts.
At its peak on March 31, more than 850 ADF personnel were supporting the operation.
“The ADF is proud to be lending a hand to local communities and responding to their needs in close consultation with NSW state authorities,” Brigadier Garraway said.
“Our teams are engaged in a variety of important activities, from removing debris and clearing roads to ensure safe community access, through to delivering food to isolated communities.”
The ADF has been working closely with Resilience NSW and other state agencies to ensure that resources have been directed to areas most in need. The support from the ADF has been focused on setting the conditions for the deeper state-led recovery efforts.