A second Australian Defence Force (ADF) planning team has deployed to Papua New Guinea (PNG), increasing Defence’s support to the PNG government’s COVID-19 response. The five-person team will take over from the original Operation PNG Assist contingent who have been providing operations, logistics and health support to the PNG Provincial Health Authorities since May this year.
Outgoing Contingent Commander Major Peter Southern said his three person team worked closely with the PNG Defence Force to achieve positive outcomes in a complex environment. “With the PNG Defence Force and Provincial Health Authorities we have supported the PNG led vaccination rollout in the Western Province, increasing the vaccination rates within the community,” Southern said. “We coordinated rotary wing assistance to get vaccines into remote locations, enhanced access to medical facilities through a new bridge and jetty, worked with PNG authorities to introduce new planning tools and build a bespoke database for vaccination tracking.”
Southern said the most rewarding part of the deployment was knowing their work saved lives. “We supported the PNG Government’s efforts to bring vaccination messaging into remote communities and saw locals listen to and act on the information, raising their sleeves to get the jab. It was very rewarding,” he said.
The incoming contingent, which includes members across the three services, recently completed mandatory quarantine in Papua New Guinea. They will continue to provide operations, health and logistics advice in the Western and Marobe provinces under the command of Royal Australian Navy Commander Matt Curnow. “Our team has hit the ground running and we look forward to working with the PNG Defence Force and Provincial Health Authorities as they continue to contribute to the PNG Government’s COVID-19 response,” Curnow said.
Defence personnel, including those in the PNG Defence Cooperation Program, have remained in PNG throughout the pandemic, working in partnership with the PNG Defence Force to ensure support is provided where it is needed most. This has seen the refurbishment of key facilities with a focus on better enabling social distancing and business continuity, establishing quarantine accommodation sites, with crucial supplies and medical equipment and providing additional commercial air and sea transport to help move personnel and stores to remote locations. Defence’s contribution is part of the Australian Government’s comprehensive support to the Government of PNG throughout the COVID-19 crisis as well as the ADF’s continuous presence and commitment to the region.