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April 2015

Plane jpeg

A RAAF C 17 in Port Vila with AUSMAT team members and supplies for cyclone-hit Vanuatu.

Cyclone damage peg

Cyclone damage across most of the archipelago was significant with vegetation flattened and roofs ripped off homes and buildings.

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Department of Health & Human Services chief nurse and midwifery officer Alison McMillan and public health emergency management specialist Julian Meagher outside AUSMAT HQ in Port Vila.

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The temporary ward and back-up power supply set up by the AUSMAT team at Vanuatu Central Hospital.

Victorians fly out for cyclone effort

Victorian health care workers were deployed with the Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) to Vanuatu as part of the Australian Government’s response to Cyclone Pam.

The team was kept busy with their Ni-Vanuatu counterparts helping people presenting to the Vanuatu Central Hospital.

They attended to injuries inflicted by cyclone debris along with respiratory illnesses and diarrhoea.

The team also supported the aeromedical evacuation of people from outlying islands to the hospital.

While communications and access to some of the outer islands was an issue, aid got through to those who needed it most.

Basic needs such as food and water, along with shelter, were the priority.

Department of Health & Human Services public health nurse and emergency management specialist Julian Meagher was in the initial AUSMAT Rapid Assessment Team mission.

‘A flyover of some of the northern islands indicated they were intact and had suffered little or no damage,’ Mr Meagher said.

‘This meant we concentrated on the islands in the provinces hardest hit.

‘AUSMAT established temporary ward accommodation at the Vila Central Hospital while their fixed infrastructure was repaired and progressively reopened.’

Mr Meagher was joined by chief nurse and midwifery officer Alison McMillan, who had a significant leadership role with the nursing services team.

‘Given the destruction we saw around Port Vila and the devastation on the outlying islands, I expected a higher death toll and many more injuries than we saw,’ Mr Meagher said.

‘I have been very impressed by the people and Government of Vanuatu in managing this crisis. 

‘When we came in, the roads were still blocked with trees and debris but, by the end of the week, this was being cleared and people were getting on with the process of rebuilding and recovering from this major event.

‘It is a credit to them and their resilience,’ Mr Meagher said.

Victoria has historically supported Australian Government-sponsored humanitarian assistance to disaster-impacted communities in the region.

Following the Samoa tsunami in 2009, 15 Victorian health professionals were deployed as a part of Australia’s response.

The last Victorian deployment was to the Philippines during 2013 in response to Typhoon Haiyan, which included five doctors, nurses and a fire-fighter from the Country Fire Authority.