Private David Sanders in his new room for single ADF members in the Edinburgh RAAF base. Picture: Luke Hemer. Source: The Advertiser
FROM “dogboxes” to “Club Fed” – South Australians Diggers are today celebrating new digs worthy of heroes at RAAF Base Edinburgh, two years after The Advertiser revealed single service people were living in dodgy dongas.
A $900 million national investment in housing for single service people means SA-based soldiers who served in Afghanistan this year have returned to motel style accommodation, instead of broken down huts with no heating or cooling.
The self-contained units, each housing one person, have an ensuite, kitchenette – including microwave and refrigerator – balcony and parking, all within walking distance of an indoor pool, gym, tennis courts, squash centre, basketball courts, football field, bar, restaurant and shops.
They are a far cry from the temporary huts used when 7RAR relocated from Darwin to Adelaide in 2011, which prompted soldiers to complain the portable tin sheds were not big enough “to swing a cat”.
Single soldiers, including 11 women, have moved into the new development and the dongas are being removed.
Soldiers living at the $90 million Federal Government complex have dubbed it “Club Fed”, while saying it will help retain people in the Australian Defence Force.
“There is a real community feel about it, it feels like a village … or a resort,” Private Christopher Andreou, 19, said.
“I was in the old dogboxes and you could not stretch out without hitting something. The heating and cooling broke down, there was nowhere to put anything, this really is luxury. It’s just awesome.”
Unveiled this week, the 432 units are part of the LEAP 2 program which delivers 3015 units in 14 bases across the nation, under a contract with the Plenary Living group which will maintain them for 33 years.
Federal MP Nick Champion and State MP Leesa Vlahos joined Parliamentary Defence Secretary Senator David Feeney to open the project which was completed on budget. The project created 300 jobs during construction.
“The old barracks just didn’t cut the mustard and these new units are part of our effort to ensure that after investing a lot in recruiting and training our servicepeople, we retain them,” Senator Feeney said.
Private David Sanders, 23, of Clare, is one of the first to move into the units.
“They are clean, modern, fully furnished, everyone is very happy with them,” he said.
“We’ve got lots of facilities here and I love this life.
“I like the physical side of the work and doing 90 minutes of physical training every day before we start works really suits me.”
For Major James O’Hanlon the new units are a sign of changing times.
When he joined the Army 21 years ago, there were four people to a room.
“Times do change and it is good to see these sorts of developments to help keep single people in the ADF,” he said on Wednesday.
The project was completed with no waste going to landfill.