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Mr Phillip Nelson
Paddington NSW 2012
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Army February 14, 2013
IMAGINE an earthquake measur-
ing 9.3 in magnitude 190km north
of Tongatapu triggering a 6m tsu-
nami that devastates the northern
and eastern regions of the island,
affecting 2000 people.
This was the scenario faced by
the Tongan response agencies and a
specialised planning team from HQ
1 Div on Ex Long Reach last year.
The scenario's earthquake
had the epicentre located north of
Tongatapu -- the main island of the
Kingdom of Tonga, and the ensuing
tsunami causing mass devastation,
including in the capitol Nuku'alofa,
with 500 dead and 1500 displaced.
ADF team leader Lt-Col Steve
Grace said the exercise was an
opportunity to engage with a region-
"We were able to help them
identify any response capability
gaps that may exist," he said.
"[The exercise] resulted in a
robust concept of operations that
the Tongan Defence Services (TDS)
and other Tongan agencies can use
should a disaster of this magnitude
Exercise develops plans for regional disaster response
Exercise participants included a
team from HQ 1 Div, TDS opera-
tional planners and a wide range of
Tongan government and non-gov-
The ADF team was also accom-
panied by an observer team from
the US Army Pacific Contingency
Command Post, which provided
valuable input to help the Tongan
disaster response agencies in achiev-
ing an effective and timely response
to a humanitarian assistance/disaster
Commander 1 Div Maj-Gen
Stuart Smith recognised the impor-
tance of international humanitar-
ian exercises in cooperation with
"We have an obligation to help
our neighbours in times of need,"
"Exercises such as this help to
meet that obligation, but they also
promote friendship and wider coop-
eration in the region."
Ex Long Reach is conducted
annually within the South Pacific
region by International Policy Div
and HQ 1 Div.
Cpl Nick Wiseman
AFTER almost 20 years of dedicated
service to ADF families the founder
and national coordinator of the Defence
Special Needs Support Group (DSNSG),
Margaret Fisk, is stepping back for a
The group was established in 1993
to help special needs ADF families with
advice and support in new posting loca-
Mrs Fisk said after she moved to
Adelaide in 1993 and had difficulty find-
ing services in the new area, it was obvi-
ous something had to be done.
"We had a young child with multiple
disabilities," she said.
"With extended waiting lists it was
almost posting time again when we final-
ly got access to services."
Frustrated with almost no access to
early intervention services, Mrs Fisk and
her husband founded the group, meeting
with similar families to exchange infor-
mation on areas where they had lived.
By sharing this information these
families could start contacting services in
their new posting locations as soon as a
posting order was raised, increasing their
chances of getting access to important
services and treatment.
The information sharing service
remains one of the group's biggest assets,
expanding into posting plans with infor-
mation available for almost every posting
location in Australia.
After becoming a triservice group in
1994 and securing funding from the ADF,
Mrs Fisk said the group grew quickly.
"In those early days my husband and
I were putting out 1200 newsletters a
month," she said.
"We often dreaded putting them out
but knew how valuable they were."
Over the years the group has expand-
ed under her careful watch, introducing
many different programs to better assist
Some of these programs offer respite
to parents and even computers to those
who need them.
The group has also had significant
impact on ADF policies, getting new ini-
tiatives off the ground, taking the issues
directly to service chiefs or higher if
Mrs Fisk said the best memories dur-
ing her time with the group were with the
"I've watched some of these kids with
special needs grow up to be wonderful
people," she said.
"Seeing them now studying success-
fully and even having careers within the
ADF has been very important to me."
Leaving the group was a hard decision
but Mrs Fisk said it was time to let others
have a go.
"I've done my 20," she said, "it's now
time to move on."
For more information on the DSNSG go to
Special needs group
founder moves on
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