ADF Bushfire Assist concert, John Schumann brings thousands of grateful Kangaroo Island locals onto Parndana Oval

There was a real sense of celebration in the air at the Parndana Oval on Saturday night as the ADF Bushfire Assist Concert brought together the community.

It was a chance to share stories and catch up and for some of the farming community it was the first chance to catch up and leave the farm for some social activity.

Sadly at least two families were still on the weekend shooting sheep that had finally succumbed to feet and lung injuries from the fire.

But Saturday's evening's concert was a chance to celebrate being alive and surviving the fires.

Mayor Michael Pengilly and the Army's top brass on the Island, Brigadier Damien Cantwell AM welcomed the crowd, that by many estimates was about several thousand strong if not more. The ADF served up 4000 sausage sandwiches, according to the mayor.

The evening opened with a performance by local musicians Craig Smart and Kaylene Graham, both whose families lost their homes in the fires. KI local Scott Ellson also performed.

This was followed a fantastic performance by the Adelaide Army Band and headlining the evening was John Schumann & the Vagabond Crew.

"Pretty special." Photo Michael Pengilly

"Pretty special." Photo Michael Pengilly

Mr Pengilly again thanked the all branches of the Australian Defence Force for their valuable work on the Island and said it was great to see so many people on the oval.

Brigadier Cantwell, commander of the 9th Brigade in Adelaide, told those gathered that the ADF was here for as long it took.

"We will be here as long as we are needed by the community and as we are directed by the department," he said.

The number of ADF personnel on the Island in recent weeks topped at about 650, and while it fallen back slightly to about 400, there had just been a new rotation of 130 troops from the 11th Brigade in Brisbane and 13th Brigade in Perth.

He recognised the families and employees of these reservists, who had allowed them to deploy with as little as one or two day's notice.

He also paid tribute to the Japanese and New Zealand defence forces for their contribution to Operation Bushfire Assist on Kangaroo Island and Joint Task Force 1111.

About half of those deployed to the Island were reservists and the other half were professional soldiers.

Priorities for the soldiers on Kangaroo Island had changed over the recent weeks.

At first it was water treatment and clearing of roads, with the Army purifying 3.5 million litres of water and it was still assisting with Penneshaw's supply, topping it up by 100,000 litres.

The Army then turned its attention to burying stock, a grisly task that continued to even this week with tens of thousands of sheep and cattle killed in the fires.

Soldiers had also assisted in 150 kilometres of fire trials and fire breaks, just as long as the length of the Island.

Working with BlazeAid, the troops had now removed many kilometres of fencing and contuinued to work with individual farmers and property owners on the clean up of burned out houses, sheds and machinery.

Legendary singer John Schumann knows a little bit about supporting the ADF having done at least five entertainment tours in locations as far away as Afghanistan.

A regular visitor to KI, first at Penneshaw and now at Island Beach, he said he did not hesitate when asked to perform on Kangaroo Island.

The last time he played on Kangaroo Island was at the service of Sapper Jamie Larcombe at the Western District sports ground after he was killed in action in Afghanistan.

He acknowledged Sapper Larcombe's sacrifice during his performance and said he would never forget this connection to KI.

He said he wrote 'I was only 19' based on his brother-in-law's experiences with 6RAR in Vietnam.

He said the Army did a flawless job setting up the concert and said it was a privilege to perform here.

This story ADF Bushfire Assist concert brings grateful locals onto Parndana Oval first appeared on The Islander.

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