Australia’s gesture of thanks to Papua New Guinea: five firetrucks

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Tom Abke

Intense bushfires that swept through Australia in 2019 and 2020 caused more than U.S. $75 billion in damages, firefighting costs and cleanup. Countries around the world sent help in the form of money, resources and firefighters.

Papua New Guinea (PNG) contributed personnel and funds to its Indo-Pacific neighbor. To show its thanks, Canberra dispatched the HMAS Choules landing ship of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) to PNG’s capital, Port Moseby, with a gift of five firetrucks. (Pictured: Workers unload a firetruck donated by Australia to Papua New Guinea at Port Moseby.)

“Not only are these fire trucks a symbol of gratitude, but they also represent a continuation of the long-standing relationship and partnership of capacity building and sharing between Australia and PNG,” RAN Commander Phillipa Hay said in a February 2021 statement.

In January 2020, PNG deployed 100 Soldiers to Australia to assist the Australian Defence Force (ADF) with its response to the bushfires, “standing shoulder to shoulder with their ADF counterparts,” Hay said.

PNG was prepared to send up to 1,000 personnel to battle the flames and assist civilians, PNG Prime Minister James Marape said in January 2020.

Most of the Soldiers deployed to Australia were from an engineering battalion stationed in Lae. Residents of the city also raised money for the Eden-Monaro division of Australia’s New South Wales state, a jurisdiction hard-hit by the fires.

Sheila Harou, a former government administrator in Lae, started the “bushfire appeal” after seeing images of the devastation, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) reported. Enlisting youth groups, churches, businesses and schools, Harou collected more than U.S. $60,000 from her community of about 70,000 residents, many of whom earn less than U.S. $1 per day.

Most of the donations benefited Eden-Monaro residents who lost their homes, ABC reported. The remainder bought two trailers for BlazeAid, a volunteer organization that rebuilds fences destroyed in fires.

The five refurbished urban firetrucks sent to PNG were donated by Australia’s Queensland Fire and Emergency Service. They carry up to 1,800 liters of water, rescue equipment and firefighting gear, including protective clothing.

Tom Abke is a FORUM contributor reporting from Singapore.



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