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Thank you very much. Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, and welcome back to Fleet Base West. I also acknowledge the Whadjuk people of the Noongar nation, the traditional owners of the land on which this extremely joyous occasion will be occurring today.
As the Minister for Defence, I also sincerely thank all of our Indigenous service men and women for their service in times of peace and war.
It’s a privilege to be back here with Madeleine King, who is both representing the Shadow Minister for Defence and is also the local member. I’m absolutely delighted that circumstances have allowed us all to be here in person today, to welcome home HMAS Toowoomba.
However, as you have been told, precautions mean that this is not going to be the traditional ceremony, and ship-side reunions will be a lot smaller than previously. But I know from talking to some of you here that it won’t dampen your joy, in seeing your loved ones again.
Six months ago I stood here to farewell Commander Livingstone and the ship’s company as they embarked on their most important mission. And today, these two words ‘welcome home’ says it all. Well done for a successful mission. Congratulations on the crew’s achievements and I thank them all for their service.
Shortly, I will have the privilege of welcoming home Commander Philips and the crew. But before I do, I would like to thank all of you particularly. I know that for the families of our service men and women, all deployments are challenging. Your loved ones volunteer to serve, and you are the loving and oh so patient conscripts to their service.
I also know that this particular deployment has been challenging for you.
When we farewelled her on the 13th of January, Australia was in the midst of one of the most devastating bushfire seasons we’ve ever had, and I know that directly impacted some of the crew and their families, and possibly some of you here today. As if that wasn’t enough, as soon as she set sail COVID-19 struck our shores, indeed our world – making your separation from your loved one all the harder.
But the crew of HMAS Toowoomba was tasked with two very heavy responsibilities. Firstly, to support the multinational Combined Maritime Forces, to safeguard global supply chains, and also to protect maritime routes. On this task, she performed absolutely magnificently. More than 3,000kg of drugs were seized, and they also helped the safe passage of 200 merchant vessels in the region.
Their second mission was to contribute to the International Maritime Security Construct with our global partners. In this task, they provided over watch for over 40 vessels to the Strait of Hormuz.
These are times when we all want our loved ones close by us – to make social distancing less isolating and also just to know everything will be okay. I have absolutely no doubt there were days when you needed your loved one close by at home. And I also know there were days when your loved one also needed to be home.
So to all of you, every one of you here today – whether you are partners, whether you are parents, siblings and children of our service men and women, I say thank you.
Thank you for your spirit. Thank you for your resilience. And thank you for your support to our nation. You make their service to our nation possible.
Please know, that the work of your loved one is important and it does make a difference to not only our nation, but to many others. So again, I say to each and every one of you, thank you for your service to our nation.
The ship’s motto – fearless – is so very apt. I am delighted to officially be able to welcome home HMAS Toowoomba.
Your wait is over.