At the request of the Government of Vanuatu, two Royal Australian Navy vessels, Her Majesty’s Australian Ships Choules and Huon, are scheduled to visit Port Vila 28-31 July to support the Republic of Vanuatu’s 40th Anniversary of Independence celebrations. Whilst in Vanuatu, they will deliver Australian-funded equipment to assist Vanuatu’s Tropical Cyclone Harold recovery efforts and COVID-19 preparedness.
During their visit HMA Ships Choules and Huon will conduct engagement at sea with their Vanuatu Police Maritime Wing colleagues, participate in the Seafarers Parade on Wednesday 29 July, and join in the vibrant and rich Independence Day commemorations and festivities from their anchorages in Port Vila Harbour.
Australia’s High Commissioner, Ms Sarah deZoeten, said the Australian Government was honoured to join its ni-Vanuatu family and friends in celebrating this momentous occasion, especially during these challenging times.
“Australia stands with the people of Vanuatu as they mark this momentous occasion and we are very proud to be able to contribute to the celebrations,” High Commisioner deZoeten said.
“The health and safety of our ni-Vanuatu family remains our utmost priority, and all Australian Defence Force assets and personnel will comply with the COVID-19 protocols and restrictions of both of our Governments.”
This year’s Australian Defence Force support builds on Australia and Vanuatu’s long and enduring security partnership spanning decades and reflects the Australian Government’s previous contributions to Vanuatu’s independence celebrations.
Commanding Officer of HMAS Choules, Commander Ben Reilly, said that the Australian Defence Force was present at the birth of Vanuatu’s independence in 1980, with HMAS Yarra and the band from HMAS Melbourne participating in independence celebrations in Port Vila.
“The men and women of HMA Ships Choules and Huon are proud and excited to commemorate this important milestone with the people of Vanuatu,” he said.
“Although the COVID-19 pandemic prevents us from participating directly alongside our partners and friends this year, the people of Vanuatu will see and hear us, both on the sea and in the air. We hope they can feel the warmth of our spirit and know that we are celebrating right alongside them”.
Both RAN vessels share a historical connection with the people of Vanuatu.
At the request of the Government of Vanuatu, HMAS Huon (one of the Royal Australian Navy’s five Minehunters) and HMAS Choules (the Royal Australian Navy’s 16,000 tonne transport ship for helicopters, landing craft and troops) supported the evacuation of civilians from Ambae in 2017 following the eruption of Manaro volcano.
In 2019, HMAS Choules returned to Port Vila and also visited Tanna to commemorate the fourth anniversary of TC Pam and conduct training with the Vanuatu Police Force to build resilience and capability, support directly aligned to this year’s 40th Anniversary of Independence theme: “Prosperity for Self-Reliance and a Resilient Future.’