It was reported over the weekend that 16 soldiers from Tonga, Fiji and the Australian Army were injured when their army truck rolled on a remote gravel track in the Kimberley. The official line is that the soldiers were returning to Yakanarra after working on a community assistance program, building facilities for two remote Aboriginal communities – as AAP reports here.

But a military insider tells Crikey a different story:

The accident took place after a Saturday night of drinking in the mess at the Yakanarra camp. (The Yakanarra community is alcohol-free, but the army camp, located 2km away, is definitely not.)

The soldiers from Fiji and Tonga had spent much of the evening singing (superbly) and some had drunk a small quantity of kava – but only Australian army personnel were authorised to drive. The people mover used to transport over 1.5 tonnes of human cargo is a high-clearance, narrow-track OKA 4WD, with a high centre of gravity and notoriously unstable. The station tracks are at best average and at times very rutted, with frequent sudden drops into dry creek beds. Wandering cattle are everywhere. Local people are reluctant to use these tracks at night. Draw your own conclusions.

Peter Fray

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