In the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, a Kurdish uprising in Northern Iraq was brutally suppressed by the Iraqi Army. Under the rule of Saddam Hussein, thousands of Kurds were killed by chemical weapons, their villages burnt and bulldozed to the ground. In April 1991, the United Nations adopted Resolution 688, condemning Iraq and allowing the international community access to provide aid to the hundreds of thousands of refugees. Australia sent a force of 75 medical and engineer personnel under Operation Habitat.
Captain Jane Morris was partway through an obstacle on a training course at Canungra when she was taken aside and told that she would be deploying to Northern Iraq as part of Operation Habitat. A doctor serving with the 11th Field Ambulance, she had been in the army for four months before she deployed.
Captain Jane Morris was one of five women to deploy to Northern Iraq, the first time that women in the Australian Army were deployed overseas in an armed capacity, following a change in Defence policy the previous year.
The Australian contingent, based on a field next to the destroyed village of Giripit, operated over a 400 square kilometre area. Morris wore this uniform while in command of one of four medical teams of five personnel. Although Morris dealt with an array of wounds and illnesses, the biggest part of her teams’ job was treating malnutrition among children. Morris said, “you see more here on one morning than in a whole year of paediatrics in Australia. It’s like taking an exam.”