Kakadu opens on remembrance and respect

Exercise Kakadu 2022 officially opened in Darwin with a reception steeped in tradition, remembrance and respect.

The event opened with around 300 attendees observing a minute’s silence in remembrance of Queen Elizabeth II, who was recognized for her steadfast and selfless commitment to service throughout her 70-year reign.

Respect was also paid to ancient indigenous traditions, with senior leaders attending a smoking ceremony led by Larrakia man, Trent Lee, before the Welcome to Country by Larrakia Elder Aunty Bilawara Lee and a performance by bungaree dancers from the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) during the evening event.

A ‘ceremonial sunset’ and ‘beat at quarters’ led by the RAN Band and a ceremonial guard from HMAS Perth were the centerpiece of the event.

Drawing on traditions dating back to the age of sailing, the ceremony featured a salute taken by the Commander of the Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Jonathan Earley, and a single volley of gunfire before the Australian White Ensign being raised from its half-mast position, lowered and folded.

After a refund of Advance Australia Fairthe ceremonial guard and marching band retired and participants from more than 20 countries continued to bond under starry Northern Territory skies.

Rear Admiral Earley addressed the event, welcoming all exercise participants and Darwin, describing it as a “beautiful part of our country”.

In an earlier address to senior leaders, Rear Admiral Earley underscored the importance of exercise at a critical time.

“We meet at a time of great conflict and concern for the future around the world,” Rear Admiral Earley said.

“For Australians and many other participating countries, this exercise comes at a time of mourning for the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and after the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“Despite this, we are here because we have a duty to perform in the service of our respective nations, communities and families.

“There is no better way to serve than by coming together, exercising together, and being prepared to work together.”

The official opening kicked off the busy schedule for the port phase of the exercise, featuring briefings, a fleet commanders conference, cross-cultural interaction and sporting events.

Exercise Kakadu is taking place in Darwin and the Northern Australia Exercise Area from September 12-24.

This is the 15th iteration of the RAN’s flagship biennial regional maritime international engagement exercise, involving around 3,000 personnel, 15 warships and more than 30 aircraft from 22 countries.

The theme of the exercise is “partnership, leadership and friendship”.

Exercise Kakadu is a biennial exercise led by the RAN, supported by the Royal Australian Air Force.

The exercise provides regional partners with the opportunity to undertake multinational maritime activities ranging from policing operations to high-end maritime warfare in a combined environment.

Australian Fleet Commander Rear Admiral Jonathan Earley and international dignitaries take part in an Aboriginal smoking ceremony with Trent Lee of the Larrakia Nation.

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