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11 March, 2021

Full Steam Ahead

TAFE Cairns has successfully tendered for the $36 million naval training program to provide mariner training and support to the Navy crews of the Guardian-class Patrol Boats in the Pacific.

By Peter McCullagh

The contract was signed earlier this week between TAFE Queensland and the Australian Defence Force to deliver a five-year maritime program that will train students from 12 Pacific Island nations to crew 21 Guardian patrol boats.

The funding is being delivered as part of the Morrison Government’s $2 billion Pacific Maritime Security Program to strengthen maritime capability in the Pacific.

Rear Admiral Wendy Malcolm in Cairns for the formal announcement said the initiative was “just the beginning of a number of plans that we have here in Cairns”.

Twenty-four jobs in maritime maintenance will also be delivered in Cairns as part of the initiative. The contract was awarded to the education institution after it submitted a proposal last year.

Announcing the partnership at TAFE Cairns, Rear Admiral Wendy Malcolm, who flew in from Perth, said: “(It is) all about building the capability in Cairns to support our current maritime assets, our Pacific assets and our new assets that are being built.”

Ms Malcolm said “This training program is incredibly important for us, we are providing 21 patrol boats to our Pacific Island nations”.

“Queensland TAFE delivered an excellent submission to undertake this training, showing innovative and proposed a ‘hub and spoke’ approach to the training, building the capability of our Pacific Island neighbours.”

“This is not just about jobs. This is about the navy having the right capability and building that sovereign capability in Cairns,” she said.

TAFE Northern Region general manager Tim Campbell said their proposal, based on a hub and spoke model, would involve having colleges across the Pacific.

“We’ll be using staff there to make sure that when the boats leave Cairns, we’ll still have touchpoints with them. We’ll deliver some training there,” he said.

If the August start date goes ahead, Mr Campbell said about 80 people would form part of the training in the first six months, followed by 320 a year for the next four years.

Leichhardt MP Warren Enstch said the partnership was “the sort of thing we’re looking for when we talk about diversifying our economy”.

Attending the contract signing in Cairns, Member for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch welcomed today’s announcement. “I am thrilled that TAFE Queensland has been awarded this significant contract which will bring economic benefits to the region,” Mr Entsch said

“Cairns is ideally located to mount and sustain maritime patrol and hydrographic operations, and the base is well served by the local Cairns ship repair industry.

“This five-year contract will generate 24 new jobs in the region in addition to the more than 400 direct industry ship sustainment jobs in Cairns which are already supporting the Morrison Government’s naval shipbuilding and sustainment plan.

“Being located near the broader Cairns Maritime Precinct will allow TAFE Queensland to access and support local companies in Cairns, which comes at such an important time while the economy recovers from the impacts of COVID-19.”

Under the Pacific Maritime Security Program, Australia is replacing the existing Pacific Patrol Boats with 21 new Guardian-class Patrol Boats to 12 Pacific Island nations and Timor-Leste to enhance regional maritime capability
and capacity.

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