The town of Mallacoota has been named the ceremonial homeport for HMAS Choules, which played a large role in helping residents during the 2019 bushfire crisis. Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester said during Operation Bushfire Assist, the Choules conducted the largest domestic maritime evacuation, with residents and holiday makers transported from Mallacoota to Hastings, Victoria.
“Mallacoota was one of the hardest hit areas during the bushfires with images of the devastation circulating around the world, and it was our Navy personnel from the Choules who helped hundreds of locals and visitors in their time of need,” Chester said. “This announcement today, held on the shores where the evacuation took place, is significant for the people of Mallacoota and for the crew of the Choules, and represents an important symbol of the bushfires. The ceremonial homeport is a significant connection for any Navy ship, bonding the ship and crew to a community for the life of service, and ensuring the friendships developed during a time of devastation continue.”
The Mallacoota community dedicated a plaque to the Australian Defence Force and Emergency Services once the crisis passed, and the town and the ship have worked together to establish the ceremonial homeport relationship.
Chester said Choules successfully evacuated 1,305 people, 162 dogs, three cats, one rabbit and one parakeet from Mallacoota via sea over two evacuations. As part of the evacuation from Mallacoota, the Choules was joined by MV Sycamore, which rescued 58 people, two dogs, a cat and a rabbit.
“The ship also delivered fuel, medical supplies and food to the Mallacoota community and became a pivotal part of the lifesaving operations conducted by the joint emergency services during that time,” Chester said. “It is significant that there are still personnel serving in Choules who were part of those operations and are honoured to see this relationship officially established.”