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Floating new ideas

Soon-to-be decommissioned, HMAS Newcastle – deployed as part of Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 – is home to one of the Royal Australian Navy’s innovation hubs.

The deployable innovation workshop (DIW), which sounds as if it should be in Silicon Valley rather than a warship, is led by Leading Seaman Marine Technician Sarah Battenally.

“The centre came out of a necessity for change to happen quicker.”

The gas turbine maintainer has notched up a series of accolades throughout her 10-year career.

“I’ve had a few good gigs,” Leading Seaman Battenally said.

“I was lucky enough to be picked up for the V8 Supercars program as a pit stop mechanic in 2015. I also did some work at Defence Recruiting and then worked at the Guided Missile Frigate Systems Program Office in condition assessment.”

That was when she and a committee of forward-thinking mariners lobbied New Generation Navy to fund the Fleet Base East Centre for Innovation.

The centre was established in 2017 as a space for sailors who wanted to learn new skills and demonstrate dynamic ways of practising their craft on the high seas.

“The centre came out of a necessity for change to happen quicker,” she said.

“The Navy has a lot of sailors at the working level who have great ideas but they don’t come to fruition. The centre is there to support and help them to be actioned.”

Leading Seaman Battenally posted to Newcastle in December 2017 and by the following August had established the innovation workshop on board.

“There are now deployable innovation workshops on four of the Navy’s major fleet units.”

Newcastle’s Chief Warrant Officer Jason McGraw, who chairs the ship’s innovation committee, said the feedback from senior leadership was excellent.

“There are now deployable innovation workshops on four of the Navy’s major fleet units,” Chief Warrant Officer McGraw said.

“The DIWs recently designed and printed 3D ship and aircraft models, which have been presented to operations room staff across the Indo-Pacific Endeavour Task Group.”

The models have since been used across the task group to train officers of the watch in replenishments at sea, coming alongside and other naval manoeuvres.

The DIWs’ client list continues to grow and, although Newcastle will decommission in June, the enthusiasm for fresh thinking and change is expected to continue.

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