Air Force and Army have combined forces to spread some Christmas cheer in remote areas of Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands.

A C-27J Spartan aircraft from No. 35 Squadron and personnel from 51 Far North Queensland Regiment have deployed on Exercise Christmas Hop from November 30 - December 5.

In the second exercise of its kind, daily missions have flown from RAAF Base Townsville to deliver donated supplies to isolated Indigenous communities.

Organisations across the country, including Modi Bodi and Support the Girls, donated items such as school supplies, sporting equipment, first aid kits and toiletries.

Commanding Officer No. 35 Squadron Wing Commander Scott Egan said the exercise area included Yorke Island, Badu and Kubin in the Torres Strait, and Bamaga, Charleville and Cooktown in Queensland.

“We worked closely with Defence reservists and local Indigenous liaison officers on the selection of locations to visit, based on requirements and accessibility,” Wing Commander Egan said.

“Defence is committed to maintaining connections with these Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal communities, and the C-27J has the unique ability to air-drop cargo or land on austere runways to reach these remote areas.

“We also wanted to spread a little Christmas cheer – 2020 has been a difficult year for many.”

We also wanted to spread a little Christmas cheer – 2020 has been a difficult year for many.

Indigenous liaison officer for RAAF Base Amberley Flight Lieutenant Kristal House said the exercise underlined Air Force and Army’s commitment to building relationships with, learning from, and creating opportunities for First Nations’ people. 

“Community elders and council members were present at each airfield, as well as Army and Air Force representatives who talked about women’s and men’s business with locals,” Flight Lieutenant House said.

“COVID-19 has impacted these isolated communities in a significant way – supplies have been limited due to border closures and the risk of infection, and many cultural practices have been put on hold.”

The exercise also demonstrated the increased interoperability between aircrew in the C-27J and Army personnel on the ground, further ensuring the ability of Defence to provide humanitarian assistance across Australia and into the Pacific.

The inaugural Exercise Christmas Drop was conducted in North Queensland and the Pilbara region in Western Australia in December last year.

Because of COVID-19 and border restrictions, the exercise this year was reduced in scale and limited to Queensland communities.