Australian Defence Force Joint Task Force completes Operation Queensland Assist 2017 Mission

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has commenced reducing its support to Queensland emergency services in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Debbie.

Units assigned to Joint Task Force 661 are gradually returning to their home bases as the clean-up and reconstruction situation in North Queensland moves into its next phase.

The rapid ADF response following Tropical Cyclone Debbie saw more than 1,600 ADF personnel working to assist affected communities and the state emergency services.

The Navy, Army and Air Force provided personnel, equipment and specialist capabilities on the ground to support the needs of people affected in North Queensland.

Chief of Joint Operations Command, Vice Admiral David Johnston, said ADF personnel had successfully completed the tasks civilian authorities requested of them, including providing specialist support to emergency services personnel.

“The Queensland disaster recovery effort in the Whitsunday region will see a transition from a Defence supported emergency response to a Queensland Government led recovery with employment opportunities for local people and businesses,” Vice Admiral Johnston said.

“Emergency services and public utilities have future restoration tasks well in hand for those areas hardest hit by the cyclone.

“Sailors, soldiers, airmen and women have welcomed the chance to assist communities, emergency services and volunteers during Operation Queensland Assist 2017,” he said.

“Provision of clean drinking water, clearance of major routes, transport of Ergon power workers to remote locations and medical staff and supplies forward, as well as assistance to isolated communities were just some of the ways Defence was able to assist.

“Our response teams appreciated the warm welcome they received for the duration of the mission,” Vice Admiral Johnston said.

While many of the ADF assets have commenced transition from the region, the Engineer Support Regiment (65 personnel, 40 vehicles) will remain in the Rockhampton area until further notice to support possible requests for assistance as flood waters in the Rockhampton area recede.

The decision to draw down the ADF assistance came after close consultation with the Queensland Government, Emergency Management Queensland (EMQ), state authorities and local officials in the affected areas.

EMQ continues to provide assistance to the communities devastated by the cyclone, and ADF specialist support will remain at local bases to assist emergency services if required.

As North Queensland transitions from the emergency response to the recovery phase, Defence is now realigning its emergency response posture to Rockhampton where engineering support, Naval, amphibious and aviation assets are available assist.

Joint Task Force 661, comprising of personnel and engineering equipment from the Townsville based 3 Brigade, was established to provide Defence assistance to state disaster response options in support of the Queensland Government to Tropical Cyclone Debbie.