IT’S the stuff of Hollywood – a military man carefully defusing a bomb before it detonates – but for the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) clearance divers, this scenario is far from the glamorous silver screen.
Whether dealing with old ordinance underwater, or dangerous roadside bombs in landlocked war-torn regions such as Afghanistan, clearance divers are the navy’s crack team of bomb disposal agents.
But what happens when the bomb explodes, or the extreme stress of the job takes its toll on the mental health of RAN staff?
It’s a question Warnbro MLA and former clearance diver Paul Papalia and fellow former divers have answered by helping set up the Navy Clearance Diver Trust (NCDT).
It will provide financial support to serving and former clearance divers and their families, modelled on the SAS Resources Trust established in 1996 after the disastrous Blackhawk helicopter crash that killed 15 SAS soldiers.
Mr Papalia served in the counter terrorist squadron of the Special Air Service Regiment, and deployed to Iraq twice while in command of Australian Clearance Diving Team Four. Many clearance divers are based at HMAS Stirling, many living locally.
In Afghanistan, divers are often the target of intricate booby-trapped bombs, with manufacturers ‘rigging’ the devices so they take out the sailor.