Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has thanked Papua New Guinea for its support to Australia’s bushfire response after the deployment of PNG military personnel.
The personnel are drawn from the Engineer Battalion based in Lae, the 1st Battalion Royal Pacific Islands Regiment and from other headquarter elements based in Port Moresby.
The Papua New Guinea Defence Force contingent will be employed alongside ADF elements from the Townsville-based 3rd Brigade as part of a joint engineer element deployed to Victoria under Joint Task Force 646.
Around 80 military engineers, as well as a command and liaison element from the PNGDF arrived in Australia yesterday.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the PNGDF personnel will be highly suited to tasks in remote and arduous conditions.
"Our Papua New Guinean friends are here to help in our time of need. The warmth and affinity between our two peoples is testimony to the true friendship we share. This support further strengthens our Defence Cooperation Program, which celebrated its 40th year in 2019," Minister Reynolds added.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said Papua New Guinea’s support to the response to the bushfire crisis strengthens the existing broad-ranging partnership enjoyed as near neighbours and close friends.
"It means a lot to our country to have our Papua New Guinean friends by our side as we face this challenging situation. It marks another important step in our journey together as partners with a shared history and an ambitious vision for our future together," Minister Payne said.
Papua New Guinea’s Minister for Defence, Saki Soloma, said, "We are Pacific neighbours and we are also family. We are here to help our Australian brothers and sisters. When Australia is hurting, we hurt too. That is why we are here to help. The PNGDF and ADF know each other well through our regular exercises and training. Today is a proud day for our two nations as Papua New Guinea prepares to deploy our bushfire assistance to Australia."
These comments were echoed by Papua New Guinea’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister, Patrick Pruaitch, who said, "We have been through a lot together as friends and partners. We stand with our Australian friends to face this devastation. Today the partnership between our nations grows even stronger."
ADF personnel have been working with state and territory authorities since September 2019 to respond to Australia’s bushfire crisis. This support will continue for as long as needed.
More than 5,000 full-time and reserve personnel are providing direct support in the field, at sea, in the air and from Defence bases across fire-affected regions.
More than 2,700 reservists are supporting Operation Bushfire Assist.
Defence has established three Joint Task Forces:
- Victoria: JTF 646 is based on Army’s 4th Brigade, with support elements from across the ADF. RAAF Base East Sale is the central hub for the Defence response in southern areas.
- NSW and the ACT: JTF 1110 is based on Army’s 5th Brigade, with support elements from across the ADF. Holsworthy Barracks is the central hub for the Defence response across NSW and the ACT.
- South Australia and Tasmania: JTF 1111 is based on Army’s 9th Brigade, with support elements from across the ADF. Keswick Barracks is the central hub for the Defence response across South Australia and Tasmania.
The Chief of the Defence Force appointed Major General Justin 'Jake' Ellwood as the Emergency ADF National Support Coordinator working in support of state and territory authorities.
Defence is also providing support to emergency services personnel in Western Australia to support firefighting efforts.
The ADF is providing support for the essential task of livestock and wildlife disposal in affected areas. This is at the request of state authorities and where the ADF’s unique capabilities are best suited.