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Army September 16, 2010
REG Saunders' legacy as a pioneer on
indigenous issues has continued through
the work of a group of Australian soldiers.
Three new houses now stand in the small
indigenous community of Pukatja (Ernabella) in
remote South Australia as a result of an exercise
that bore his name.
Exercise Saunders 2010 was a four-month Army
Aboriginal Community Assistance Program (AACAP)
exercise that began in May and involved more than 225
soldiers from 20 ADF units.
The exercise, the 17th since AACAP's inception,
was named after the late Capt Saunders, MBE, the first
indigenous Australian soldier to receive a commission
in the Army.
The exercise contingent was formed around 21
Const Sqn (6ESR) and included supporting elements
from 19 CE Wks, 2HSB, 9FSB, and 21 and 22 Const
Regts. OC 21 Const Sqn Maj Tim Kuffer said the scope
of work followed that of previous AACAP projects --
aiming to improve the environmental health conditions
within remote Aboriginal communities.
"The health team developed health, nutrition and fit-
ness programs targeting children at the Pukatja school,
as well as running a dental clinic, a population health
course and veterinary services," Maj Kuffer said.
"The greatest success was the nutrition program,
which focused on introducing schoolchildren to new
and healthy food, cooking recipes and proper hygiene."
He said the dental clinic operated out of an old
building -- refurbished by the sappers -- in the centre of
the community. It treated more than 200 members of
the community and produced almost 50 dentures.
"For a community that normally waits months for
dentures, the rapid production rate achieved by the
Army dental technicians was remarkable."
The sappers were also busy, building three three-
bedroom homes and re-sheeting a dangerous section of
road close to the community. A civilian contractor was
engaged to construct a pipeline to supplement the exist-
ing water supply.
Maj Kuffer said the training provided employment
opportunities for community members. The three grad-
uates of the population health course secured employ-
ment as environmental health workers, while the eight
students on the engineering construction course run by
the soldiers also found work on a local housing project.
"Exercise Saunders 2010 allowed soldiers of a vari-
ety of trades, from dental hygienists to plant operators,
to hone their skills and help the indigenous population
in a small but significant way," he said. "All of the sol-
diers involved in this exercise saw the direct and posi-
tive impact they had on the community, and get a lot of
satisfaction from that. They're rightfully proud of what
was achieved in Pukatja in a short period."
Three new houses and almost
50 dentures are among the
contribution troops have made
to a remote community.
Nearly done: Sappers add cladding to a building in Pukatja in South Australia.
Thanks for coming: Locals express their gratitude to the troops.
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