From offering support to local charities to hosting expos, forums and sporting events, the Army’s 3rd Brigade in Townsville has been busy engaging with the local community.
The first part of the year has been a busy and exciting time for the Army’s 3rd Brigade in Townsville. The units are active making sure their procedures, troops and equipment are ready but while the tempo is ramping up, the Army continues to remain strongly engaged with the local community.
In January Commander of 3rd Brigade, Brigadier Chris Field, welcomed new Defence families with the assurance that Townsville is a welcoming city, with the city’s community, sporting, educational and business associations keen to make Defence families feel at home. Newcomers were able to experience this for themselves at the Defence Community Organisation Welcome and Information Expo at the Townsville Stadium held in February.
A key event in early March was the Indigenous Elders and Community Breakfast hosted by Defence Force Recruiting, Townsville. The event was an opportunity for ADF personnel to meet the much-respected community Elders and Indigenous Recruiting Team (SRT-I) from the Townsville region. The breakfast served as a forum to exchange views and build relationships with the aim of helping young Indigenous people with career opportunities.
Respect, inclusiveness and equal opportunity are central to Army values, so it was fitting that the Lavarack Barracks Geckos Family Centre was the venue for a morning tea marking International Women’s Day on March 8. Head Coach of the JCU Townsville Fire, Claudia Brassard, gave the keynote address emphasising the value of stepping up to meet career and life challenges.
Community relationships were also enhanced with the first quarterly Townsville Defence Community Forum held at the Townsville City Council Chambers in March. The tangible benefits of the forum are reflected with improvements in areas like health, employment, education and coordination for Defence personnel in partnership with community, government, ex-services, sporting, educational and business associations.
Each unit at Lavarack has a particular charity or cause they support. For example, the 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment helps eradicate family violence through support to the White Ribbon Organisation. It’s a cause that Brigadier Field is also passionate about.
“Domestic and family violence has no place in our Defence family and does not align with Army’s values of courage, initiative, respect and teamwork. Together we can end domestic and family violence,” Brigadier Field says. “We have a 3rd Brigade Domestic Violence framework in place to support those efforts and it’s an area we’ll continue to progress in partnership with the North Queensland Community.”
A local organisation soldiers also help with is Food Relief NQ. With volunteer assistance from soldiers and the community, Food Relief NQ prepares special Christmas hampers for families doing it tough.
Legacy has a special place at the forefront of 3rd Brigade charitable efforts with their support to the many widows and families of deceased service people in North Queensland. Last year $60,000 was raised from the very successful Lavarack Barracks Open Day and King and Queen of Mount Stuart endurance run. Much of the fundraising was made possible by local businesses that provided support, with the biggest contribution coming from the Queensland RSL. This event continues in 2017 on Saturday September 2 at the western end of Lavarack Barracks.
The sacrifice that families and children of current serving members make while mum or dad is away is also recognised as Brigadier Field observes; “We acknowledge how tough absences from home can be for families. This is why our unit support teams, the Defence Community Organisation and the Townsville community work hard to ensure availability of high-quality family level support,” he says. “I encourage all of our people to make use of the excellent services available through the Defence Community Organisation and our own Geckos Family Centre. Geckos offer a wide variety of support services from a Justice of the Peace drop-in service to partner gym sessions with babysitting.”
Sport plays a key part in growing community relationships. Australian Army Indigenous Rugby League Team, Murungal, annually compete in a Townsville-based Rugby League Carnival. Murungal presents an example enabling young people to reach their personal potential. 3rd Brigade’s relationship with the North Queensland Indigenous community is further enhanced with the annual Bill ‘Kookaburra’ Coolburra Shield rugby league match, named after legendary Vietnam War tunnel rat and Palm Island community leader Bill Coolburra. This year the Palm Island Skipjacks will travel to the mainland and play the 3rd Brigade as a curtain-raiser for the NRL ANZAC round on April 22, before the North Queensland Cowboys take on the Newcastle Knights.
Sport also ties in to commemorative events like Remembrance Day with a tribute to the fallen on the morning of November 11, followed by charitable Rugby matches for a worthy cause in the evening. Last year it was the Hounds for Hounds for Healing charity that benefited. In addition, 3rd Brigade’s annual sports competition with James Cook University (covering many codes) continues to build community bridges beyond the ‘game’.
One-off events supported over the past 12 months have included the Townsville 150 Commemorations and Lavarack Barracks 50th Anniversary. The Freedom of Entry is another traditional example of military and community relations. The ceremony of Freedom of Entry is one of the oldest military traditions. It dates back to medieval times when armed bodies of soldiers were challenged before being permitted to enter a city. Today the Freedom is a ceremonial event and is the highest honour a city can extend to a unit of the Armed Forces as a symbol of mutual respect, trust and confidence. The 2nd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, was originally granted the Freedom of the City of Townsville in 1971 as a result of the close association between the citizens of Townsville and members of the Battalion. And in 2016 they exercised that ‘Freedom’ for the first time in many years.
An event that is growing in stature is Queensland’s official Australia Day Flag Raising Ceremony held at Jezzine Barracks. The ceremony features the raising of the Australian, Governor’s, Queensland, Townsville, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags. Brigadier Field calls it an impressive and inclusive ceremony highlighting the Army’s shared value of respect with our community.
Front and centre was a Royal Guard of Honour provided by the 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment parading the unit’s Queen’s and Regimental Colours. They were ably supported by the 1st Battalion Band and Flag Orderlies from the three services, including personnel from HMAS Cairns and RAAF Townsville. His Excellency the Honorable Paul de Jersey, AC, Governor of Queensland, inspected the troops followed by a Royal Australian Air Force fly-past and a traditional 21-gun salute provided by the 105mm ceremonial guns of the 4th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery. The rumble and drifting smoke from the high ground reminded all that Townsville is indeed imbued with a proud military heritage – one that continues in 2017.
The pinnacle of remembrance occasions remains ANZAC Day, where community and those in uniform step up together to honour the fallen – this is the ultimate community engagement.