Almost a year after HMAS Adelaide provided logistics support to Eden during the 2019 bushfires, Navy returned to help the still-recovering community.
The NUSHIP Supply crew travelled down to the Bega Valley Shire to help rebuild fences that were lost during the bushfires and rejuvenate a local oval that was used as an evacuation point.
Executive Officer Supply Lieutenant Commander Peter Dargan said the crew members were happy to assist the community alongside volunteer organisations Blaze Aid and BizRebuild.
“It is an honour to return to Eden, be welcomed by the community and take over where HMAS Adelaide left off earlier this year,” Lieutenant Commander Dargan said.
“It also serves as a timely reminder as we enter another high-risk weather season that we need to be ready to be called upon to provide assistance again should it be needed.
“The stories we have heard this week have shown just how meaningful support from the ADF is to Australian communities.”
Residents Barry and Nerida Heseltine held back tears but could not contain their smiles when a group of Supply personnel pulled up with Blaze Aid to help rebuild their fences.
“We stayed and fought the fire, which was a silly thing to do but you don’t think about it at the time,” Mr Heseltine said.
“I’ve been in the Rural Fire Service for 23 years and I’ve never seen fires that bad. I will never forget the sound.
“We are still suffering the impacts and not just on our property. I’ve lost my sense of smell and Nerida’s lost hearing in one ear, burnt her feet and has lung problems. It’s affected us a lot.”
The fire consumed the mountains lining the couple’s alpaca farm and roared into their property before they could get all their animals out.
We all joined the Navy to serve, so to come down here and serve our local community is terribly humbling.
Coming close to their house, it was only by chance and Nerida’s bravery with melting garden hoses that saved it.
The couple said they were lucky but overwhelmed with the amount that still needs to be done.
“Before the Navy came we didn’t know what we were going to do. So much work needs to be done and we’re older so it is very overwhelming,” Mrs Heseltine said.
“We woke up early this morning because we were so excited knowing we were going to get some help though.
“When the Navy pulled up we were overjoyed, this was the greatest Christmas present ever and we thank the Navy so very much. We’ll have smiles for weeks.”
Lieutenant Commander Dargan said stories like the Heseltine’s and others had etched the experience on the crew’s minds and reinforced why they signed up to serve Australians.
“We all joined the Navy to serve, so to come down here and serve our local community is terribly humbling,” Lieutenant Commander Dargan said.
“The stories of resilience that this community have demonstrated are inspiring and it’s good for our crew to know that even without a ship yet, we still are contributing to Australia and Navy.”
Leading Seaman Coxswain Brooke Summers, who was in Adelaide during Operation Bushfire Assist, said coming back to Eden and helping the community was a moving experience.
“My experience from coming to Eden now since Op Bushfire Assist has changed dramatically. It’s good to see people out and about and feels amazing to come back and support the community again,” Leading Seaman Summers said.
“The locals have reacted quite well to us being here – I’ve had conversations with some who have expressed their thanks about how happy they were knowing Adelaide was ready to evacuate them if needed, and that we’ve come back to support them.”