P04111_030 Trooper (Tpr) Jon Church carries an injured Rwandan child who has survived the brutal massacre by soldiers of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) at the UN administered refuge camp at Kibeho in 1995. Tpr Church was one of 18 soldiers killed in a training accident in Townsville on 12 June 1996, when two Blackhawk helicopters crashed. Photo by George Gittoes.P04111.030

With the end of the Second World War, the UN Security Council took responsibility for the collective defence of member states against aggression. However, with conflicts since 1945 being the result of Cold War tensions and internal civil wars, another more practical way was needed to ease conflict.

This desire to keep the peace led to the concept of employing a minimally armed force to monitor an emerging peace between two parties recently at war, either opposed nations or internal factions. In turn, this has led to more complex peace-enforcement operations, where force has been authorised to prevent further conflict, and also the need for humanitarian support in the face of man-made or natural disasters. The overriding goal for these operations has been the use of impartial, multi-national forces to bring peace, stability, and rebuilding to areas in crisis.

Since the first peacekeepers left Australia for Djokjakarta (Indonesia) in September 1947, over 30,000 Australians have been involved in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations. The Australian Defence Force (ADF) and Australian Federal Police (AFP) have been involved in over a hundred operations (large and small), providing forces and leadership for peace observation and enforcement, weapons destruction, demining, training, and disaster relief all over the world.

Official History of Australian Peacekeeping and Post–Cold War Operations
Parallel to its commitment to peacekeeping and humanitarian operations, Australia is the first country to write an official history of its complete peacekeeping record.
Can you help?
If you have served on an Australian peacekeeping or humanitarian mission, and would be willing to be interviewed about your experiences, or if you have any diaries, letters, reports, photographs, or other material and memorabilia, we would like to hear from you.
You can contact us by emailing  peacekeeping@awm.gov.au
Australians and peacekeeping
A brief introduction to the history of Australian involvement in peacekeeping operations worldwide.
Keeping the peace: stories of Australian peacekeepers
Originally a travelling exhibition in 2001, this online exhibition tells the stories of Australian peacekeeping from 1947 to the millennium.

Further reading