Section 7: Australian peacekeeping

On 6 March 2013 the Council of the Australian War Memorial agreed to include all the names of ADF personnel killed in non-warlike service since 1947 (including peacekeeping operations) in the Roll of Honour. These people had previously only been included in the Remembrance Book. The Remembrance Book lists those ADF personnel and Australian police officers who died on operations that were considered to be non-warlike. Currently there are 52 names in the Remembrance Book, 48 of which were ADF members, with the remaining four being police officers.

More than 30,000 Australians have served as peacekeepers. The Australian War Memorial lists 14 Australians who have died while on peacekeeping operations.

Australia’s first operation was in 1947, when military observers were sent to Indonesia under the banner of the United Nations (UN) to monitor the ceasefire between Dutch colonial and Indonesian independence forces. Since then, Australian military, police and some civilians have served on more than 50 peacekeeping missions.

Australian activities have included:

  • observing truces (and fighting) in locations such as Korea, the Sinai, Lebanon, the Balkans, Kashmir and Bougainville
  • providing humanitarian aid in remote areas such as the Congo and in West New Guinea
  • establishing law and order in trouble-spots such as Cyprus and the Thai-Cambodian border
  • observing elections and referendums in places such as West Sahara and East Timor and
  • de-mining in countries such as Afghanistan and Cambodia.

The first multinational peacekeeping mission commanded by an Australian was the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP). Robert Nimmo, a former army officer who was appointed as an Honorary Lieutenant-General in 1954, led UNMOGIP from 1950 until his death in 1966. His is the longest ever command of a UN operation. Australians have since commanded several other peacekeeping missions in the Middle East, Asia and Pacific regions.

The first operation with more than 500 Australians was the Australian-commanded UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia during 1992–93. The first with more than 1,000 Australians was the Unified Task Force in Somalia during 1993. By far the largest commitment for Australia to date was the Australian-commanded International Force East Timor in 1999–2000, with more than 5,000 personnel deployed.

‘Peacekeeping’ can be a misnomer, as operations may be in war zones or areas of recent violence. There may be cultural difficulties to deal with between peacekeepers and locals, and between different nationalities of peacekeepers. There has been frustration, even within the ranks of peacekeepers, at the perceived impotence of some operations. The failure or inability to protect civilians in a number of locations, such as Rwanda, has been condemned. On the other hand, there have been some very successful peace operations as well.

Cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been reported among former peacekeepers. Even some ‘non-warlike’ operations have imposed uncommon strains on personnel. Indeed, two of the deployments to the UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR), including the period spanning the Kibeho massacre on 22 April 1995, have since been reclassified ‘warlike’. Members of these deployments have been issued with the Australian Active Service Medal, and are eligible for veterans’ entitlements.

In 1993 the Australian Defence Force Peacekeeping Centre was opened at Williamtown, NSW in recognition of the importance and increasing complexity of peacekeeping and to guide doctrine and training. In 2002, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) opened the Wanggirrali Ngurrumbai Centre at Majura, ACT for police peacekeeping training.

The six-volume Official history of Australian peacekeeping, humanitarian and post-Cold War operations is currently being written, jointly supported by the Australian War Memorial, the Australian National University and the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Volume II of this series Australia and the ‘New World Order’: from peacekeeping to peace enforcement: 1988–1991 by David Horner was published in 2011. The remaining volumes are scheduled to be published during 2014.

The Australian Peacekeeping Memorial Project aims to build a memorial on Anzac Parade in Canberra. It has received backing from the ADF, AFP, RSL, and the Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans’ Association. The winning design was announced on 19 December 2008.

ADF and AFP peacekeepers are currently serving in South Sudan, Solomon Islands, Sinai, and the Middle East.

Australian peacekeeping honour roll

According to the Australian War Memorial’s peacekeeping operations website, fourteen Australians have died in peacekeeping operations:

Honorary Lieutenant-General Robert Nimmo, civilian–UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan, natural causes, Kashmir, 4 January 1966

Sergeant Llewellyn (Lew) Thomas, SA Police, seconded to Commonwealth Police (CP)–UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), vehicle accident, 26 July 1969

Inspector Patrick Hackett, NSW Police, seconded to CP–UNFICYP, vehicle accident, 29 August 1971

Sergeant Ian Ward , NSW Police, seconded to CP–UNFICYP, landmine explosion, 12 November 1974

Captain Peter McCarthy, Australian Army–UN Truce Supervision Organisation, Lebanon, landmine explosion, 14 January 1988

Lance Corporal Shannon McAliney, Australian Army–Unified Task Force, Somalia, accidentally shot, 2 April 1993

Major Susan Felsche, Australian Army–UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, plane crash, 21 June 1993

Lance Corporal Russell Eisenhuth, Australian Army–International Force East Timor, illness, 17 January 2000

Lance Corporal Shawn Lewis, Australian Army–Peace Monitoring Group, Bougainville, drowned, 20 May 2000

Corporal Stuart Jones, Australian Army–UN Transitional Administration in East Timor, accidentally shot, 9 August 2000

AFP Protective Service Officer Adam Dunning, AFP Protective Service–Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI), Honiara, ambushed and shot, 22 December 2004

Private Jamie Clark, Australian Army–RAMSI, Guadalcanal Island, fell down a mineshaft while on patrol, 10 March 2005

Private Ashley Baker, 2nd battalion 2RAR International Stabilisation Force, East Timor, died from discharge of own weapon, 5 November 2007 and

Craftsman Beau Pridue was killed in a vehicle accident in Timor-Leste on 15 September 2011. Craftsman Pridue was an Australian Army Reservist.

Australian peacekeeping operations—other resources

A full list of Australian peacekeeping operations can be found on the Department of Defence’s Global Operations site  which lists current ADF operations. The Australian Federal Police’s website on the International Deployment Group has links to current overseas deployments.

In August 2008 the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade released a report, Australia’s involvement in peacekeeping operations.

Peacekeeping, Humanitarian and Post-Cold War Operations—this link to the Australian War Memorial contains historical background, a timeline, and other information on observers and enforcers as well as operations in which Australia has been involved.

The Australian War Memorial also has links to articles about various peacekeeping operations and a reading list.

The Australian Defence Force Peacekeeping Centre contains information on Australian Peacekeeping Operations around the world.

Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans’ Association website.

‘Faces of Australian Peacekeeping’ by Peter Londey, and the book Other people’s wars: a history of Australian peacekeeping, Allen & Unwin, 2003.

Peter Londey’s entry on Australia and peacekeeping in the Oxford companion to Australian military history (2nd edn, OUP, Sth Melb., 2008, pp. 412–417) has a table of past and current missions with dates, approximate contingent size, and the role of Australians in the mission.

In ‘Sixty years of Australian peacekeeping and peace operations today’, Tim Ford outlines Australia’s contributions to peacekeeping and the complexity of integrated missions (United Service, vol. 59, no. 1, March 2008, pp. 13–16).

 

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