I draw the attention of the House to the work done and the service carried out at the Richmond Royal Australian Air Force [RAAF] Base in the Hawkesbury electorate. The RAAF has operated from Richmond since June 1925, although the aviation roots in the Hawkesbury run even deeper—to 1912—when Parramatta dentist William Hart flew his homemade monoplane from a site known as Ham Common, which is the land on which the Richmond RAAF Base is situated. I pay special tribute to the RAAF’s No. 35 Squadron, which was re-formed at Richmond in January 2013. To mark the squadron’s return to the skies, on 8 August this year, a colour parade was held at the RAAF Base Richmond before the squadron’s families, RAAF personnel, and special guests, including the Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Gavin Davies, and the parade’s reviewing officer, a man with a close personal connection with 35 Squadron—the Governor of New South Wales, His Excellency General the Hon. David Hurley, AC, DSC.
The Richmond RAAF Base has a long and decorated history in our country’s military past. During the First World War, the New South Wales Government established a military flying school at the base, preparing pilots for operations at the Western Front in Europe. In the last half century, RAAF personnel continued their honourable work from Richmond, without fanfare, supporting operations at home and abroad. Richmond aircraft were among the first to land in Darwin following Cyclone Tracy. They brought the last Australians out of Saigon during the Vietnam War. They sustained Australian troops on operations in East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Today the base is the home of the No. 35 Squadron, which was formed in March 1942 as one of the RAAF’s first dedicated air transport squadrons.
After the Japanese surrender in August 1945, No. 35 Squadron brought home Australian soldiers and liberated prisoners of war—some of whom had been held in captivity for more than three years. They saw their first sight of home through the windows of a No. 35 Squadron Dakota. The squadron remained dormant until Australia’s commitment to the Vietnam War in 1964, when the newly delivered DHC-4 Caribou transport planes were deployed to Vung Tau in South Vietnam. When the Caribou arrived in South Vietnam, their United States Air Force liaison officer asked what to call them. They suggested “kangaroo”, but the Americans found that hard to say. Another RAAF pilot suggested “wallaby”, and the name stuck. To this day, No. 35 Squadron carries the moniker Wallaby Airlines. The wallaby forms the centrepiece of the squadron’s crest and is carried on the aircraft’s tail.
In February 1972, No. 35 Squadron completed its tour of duty in Vietnam—effectively being the first in and last out of RAAF units in the conflict. Returning home, the squadron was based at the Richmond RAAF Base. In May 2012 the Federal Government announced the purchase of 10 C-27J Spartan light transports—a battlefield airlifter that would complement the larger transport aircraft that already had demonstrated strong service in Afghanistan, Iraq, and on humanitarian missions around the globe. To fly the Spartan, Wallaby Airlines was re-formed. In January 2013, No. 35 Squadron stood up again at the Richmond RAAF Base.
Under the command of Wing Commander Brad Clarke, the unit sent its first personnel to train on the C-27J Spartan in Waco, Texas, in late 2014. In early 2015, after a 15-year hiatus, No. 35 Squadron flew its first Spartan flight. On 25 June 2015 a new shape appeared in the skies over the Hawkesbury—the first C-27J Spartan for No. 35 Squadron. I pay tribute to all the men and women who serve at the Richmond RAAF Base. They are shining exemplars of Hawkesbury service to our country. I pay special tribute to those attached to No. 35 Squadron. It was fantastic to be out at the RAAF base with the squadron in August. I commend their dedicated service today and into the future.