Australia and Solomon Islands completed the second phase of the annual Exercise Coastwatchers in Honiara and Gizo last month, building Solomon Islands’ capacity to respond to natural disasters.
Australia’s Defence Adviser in Solomon Islands Lieutenant Colonel Justin Bywater said the exercise was a great success.
“Our region is the most vulnerable to natural weather events and Coastwatchers provides a unique opportunity for us, as Pacific Family, to work together to enhance Solomon Islands’ abilities to respond to a humanitarian disaster”, said Lieutenant Colonel Bywater.
Exercise Coastwatchers is Australia and Solomon Islands’ premier bilateral exercise and is named after the heroic Coastwatchers of World War II. It is designed jointly by the Australian Defence Force, Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) and Solomon Islands Government to build Solomon Islands’ humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and policing capabilities.
This iteration of Exercise Coastwatchers focussed on small boat handling for the RSIPF in Gizo, RSIPF band engagement, radio communication training and disaster management planning with the National Disaster Management Office.
“Many of us have had experience on the water but we needed more familiarisation with this type of craft, particularly the safety aspects and using the navigation tools,” said Police Constable Kaega.
“In my province of Choiseul, which has a number of islands, we can assist people much easier and quicker if we can use boats.”
Australia provides ongoing support to the RSIPF Maritime Division through the Defence Cooperation Program and Pacific Maritime Security Program.
This year’s Coastwatchers serial – the first since 2019 because of COVID-19 travel restrictions – is being held in three phases. The final phase will take place in November and will include a visit from the Australian Government’s new Pacific Support Vessel, ADV Reliant.