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Naval Cadets on course

Jun 19, 2019 | Features

You see them on parade every Anzac Day and Remembrance Day, confident in their crisp ceremonial whites, proudly bearing the Australian flag as they march by with military precision. For over 20 years, the TS Centaur Naval Cadets have been providing Maleny’s youth with opportunities in leadership, self-discipline and teamwork, turning youths into responsible adults.

by Judy Fredriksen

Back in 1995, three old salts – John Wenban, Eddie Vann and Grant Hammer – decided to start up a navy cadet unit in Maleny. Recognised as an official unit in January 1997, the Maleny unit, TS Centaur, commemorates the Australian Hospital Ship Centaur which was sunk off Moreton Island in 1943 by a torpedo fired from a Japanese submarine. As a result, 268 lives were lost.

At present, the unit officers, Eddie and Linda Vann, have 16 cadets, both male and female and aged 13–18, under their stewardship.

“The cadets is basically a youth club in uniform,” says Eddie. “We train them in teamwork, leadership, communication, social integration, but we do it with a maritime emphasis… and we do water activities – kayaking, sailing, power boating.

“Cadets get opportunities to visit Royal Australian Navy (RAN) ships. Earlier this year two TS Centaur cadets flew to Townsville and spent four days on HMAS Choules.

Cadets – Lest we forget, Anzac Day, Maleny 2019

“We sail and kayak on Baroon Pocket Dam. We have a boat shed down there where we store our boats. Kayaks we store at our unit and take them down as required.

“In the next couple of weeks there is going to be an opportunity for cadets above recruit rank to do a power boating course.” In this course, cadets learn how to drive a powerboat.

But activities are not limited to the water; the cadets enjoy bushwalking, rifle shooting, drum band, parade activities and organised camps with other units. They also compete in the National Sailing Regatta in Sydney.

“We had winning crews two years running,” beams Eddie.  

“We’ve got a well set curriculum that takes them through from recruit to seaman, able seaman, leading seaman, petty officer, chief petty officer and each of those has their own set course with a task book that they work to,” he says.

The results are impressive as demonstrated by the cadets on ANZAC Day every year when they carry out their duties as the Catafalque party mounted on the Maleny RSL Cenotaph.

Cadets – Eddie Vann (front row, 1st left) at Officer’s Training College, UK, 1950s

One of the most exciting opportunities for the cadets is securing a voyage on the Young Endeavour, the national sail training ship. The Young Endeavour Youth Scheme has been recognised internationally as a leading youth development program.

“The sail master trains them and at the end of their ten day voyage, they can take a turn at being captain, first lieutenant, etc. and run the ship for 24 hours,” explains Eddie.

Overseas exchange programs are also on offer, with annual exchanges available with Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States.

“We have a cadet who in June, is going to America on a cadet exchange,” says Eddie.

Some of the cadets go on to enjoy a career in the navy or military and even those who don’t, derive other benefits from being in the cadets. The discipline and confidence they acquire through the program helps them to become ready for future employment.

“We can give employers a report of their time of service, and a reference,” says Linda. “That gives them a start with job seeking. There’s not many opportunities for them to get a reference when they are looking for their first part-time job.”

For Eddie and Linda, the rewards of working with the cadets are altruistic.

Cadets – Eddie and Linda Vann will be hanging up their Naval hats at the end of the year

“You get a lot out of seeing success stories with kids,” grins Eddie. We’ve had kids on the autism spectrum and the parents have come to us and said, ‘what a difference you’ve made!’”.

Linda adds, “We’ve had kids who have come along and they’ve been either problem kids or on the verge of getting into something serious, and they’ve ended up being great cadets. They just needed that focus and structure.

The RAN provides all cadet uniforms and covers the cost of many activities so the cost to parents is minimal.

After being at the helm for the last nine years, Linda and Eddie have decided to disembark from the TS Centaur Australian Navy Cadets at the end of this year and focus on other commitments. They would like to hear from anyone who may be interested in taking over.

If you love working with teenagers and enjoy seeing them achieve, this could be an opportunity for you.

It’s not mandatory to have military, naval or a defence background though it would be an advantage. Ideally, the cadets need three people, at least one male and one female. Other useful skills would be experience in sailing, outdoor activities, computer, administration, management or training.

Eddie and Linda would be available to assist throughout a transitionary period and invite anyone interested to join them at the TS Centaur unit in the Maleny Showgrounds on Wednesday afternoons after school.

Their telephone contacts are: 5494 3290 or Linda’s mobile: 0402 060 050

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