HMAS Stalwart III promises to return to Geraldton after successful inaugural visit

Phoebe PinGeraldton Guardian
Able Seaman Josh Keys, who was born and raised in Geraldton.
Camera IconAble Seaman Josh Keys, who was born and raised in Geraldton. Credit: Phoebe Pin

A crowd of locals turned out to farewell the HMAS Stalwart III on Monday, but the ship’s company has assured Geraldton they will be back.

The Royal Australian Navy’s newest oil replenishment ship visited its ceremonial home port of Geraldton for the first time at the weekend, just over one year since it arrived in Australia.

The visit had been planned for earlier this year but the ship was redirected to provide emergency aid to flood victims on the East Coast.

Aboriginal elder Derek Councillor performed a Welcome to Country at the ship on Friday, with the Wilinyu Dancers also treating the visitors to a vibrant display of traditional dance.

The Wilinyu Dancers, and Derek Councillor with part of the ship's company.
Camera IconThe Wilinyu Dancers, and Derek Councillor with part of the ship's company. Credit: Phoebe Pin

Saturday saw crew and special guests participate in the Freedom of Entry march, with some brave locals also breaking a sweat alongside personnel during a training session on the foreshore.

The ship opened up to the community on Sunday, with more than 1300 locals snapping up tickets to receive a tour of the vessel.

The milestone visit ended on Monday when about 60 people went to sea to experience a day in the life aboard the HMAS Stalwart.

Commanding Officer Commander Steve McCracken said he had been “blown away” by the hospitality of Geraldton over the weekend.

“It has been a fantastic response and I am really excited about what that means for where we can then go in the next steps of the relationship between Stalwart and Geraldton,” he said.

“A ship’s life is about 30 years, and I am still only in the first year of commissioning.”

HMAS Stalwart Guard Commander Lieutenant Sam Devine leads the Guard during the ship’s Freedom of Entry in Geraldton.
Camera IconHMAS Stalwart Guard Commander Lieutenant Sam Devine leads the Guard during the ship’s Freedom of Entry in Geraldton. Credit: Sgt Gary Dixon/Royal Australian Navy

Cmdr McCracken said he was passionate about fostering a relationship with Geraldton as the ceremonial home port of HMAS Stalwart III.

“(A ceremonial home port) is about how we give back to the community, how we can show the community that this is your Navy and this is what your Navy does,” he said.

“We have hosted dedicated tours to groups like the PCYC, recruits and cadets, and we have opened the ship (on Sunday) to the public. We have had an overwhelming support for that to the point where it is really disappointing that we couldn’t get more people on board.

“But we will be back, we will do that again.”

HMAS Stalwart III Commanding Officer Commander Steve McCracken.
Camera IconHMAS Stalwart III Commanding Officer Commander Steve McCracken. Credit: Phoebe Pin

There are currently three Geraldton locals serving aboard HMAS Stalwart III, including Able Seaman Josh Keys.

He said it had been “awesome to see Geraldton from a different perspective” over the weekend.

“To bring family and friends on board has been awesome, to show day to day what my job role is. I can talk so much but now I can show them the wheel where I work and the guns that I shoot,” he said.

HMAS Stalwart’s chief petty officer naval police coxswain Mel Parsons presents the document that permits the ship’s company to march through the City of Greater Geraldton as part of the Freedom of Entry parade.
Camera IconHMAS Stalwart’s chief petty officer naval police coxswain Mel Parsons presents the document that permits the ship’s company to march through the City of Greater Geraldton as part of the Freedom of Entry parade. Credit: Sgt Gary Dixon/Royal Australian Navy

“I think the presence of the Navy in the community is what really draws people to join, and in turn it is us giving to the community which makes us feel a greater sense of why we are doing it and who we are doing it for.”

HMAS Stalwart Guard Commander Lieutenant Sam Devine leads the Guard during the ship’s Freedom of Entry in Geraldton.
Camera IconHMAS Stalwart Guard Commander Lieutenant Sam Devine leads the Guard during the ship’s Freedom of Entry in Geraldton. Credit: Sgt Gary Dixon/Royal Australian Navy
Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Leroy O’Connor with the ship’s lifebuoy during HMAS Stalwart’s Freedom of Entry in the City of Greater Geraldton.
Camera IconAble Seaman Boatswains Mate Leroy O’Connor with the ship’s lifebuoy during HMAS Stalwart’s Freedom of Entry in the City of Greater Geraldton. Credit: Sgt Gary Dixon/Royal Australian Navy
The HMAS Stalwart III crew watch the Welcome to Country ceremony.
Camera IconThe HMAS Stalwart III crew watch the Welcome to Country ceremony. Credit: Phoebe Pin

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