By Alice Evans
Recognising Peacekeeping - Marking 73 years in the Field
On 14 September 1947, four Australian military observers entered the field as part of the United Nations Good Offices Committee to Indonesia. Since then, not a day has passed without an Australian serving in a peacekeeping operation somewhere in the world. Australia has made more than 40,000 individual deployments to more than 60 peacekeeping operations in over 30 countries and disputed zones.
From Somalia to Solomon Islands, Bosnia to Bougainville, Australian servicemen and servicewomen have deployed in roles as varied as election monitors, signallers, negotiators, observers, and air traffic controllers. They have carried out humanitarian demining, delivered aid, provided logistic and communications support, and been attached to medical teams. To this day, they continue to fulfil a wide variety of roles in order to help prevent conflict and human suffering.
The diversity of the peacekeeping experience is reflected in the Australian War Memorial’s National Collection. A washing machine, ingeniously improvised by Australian personnel from spare parts in Somalia highlights the tough environment crippled by water shortages. The original red paint of a Honda All Terrain Vehicle is evident below the camouflage colour scheme spray painted by members of the Australian Special Air Service Regiment before the vehicle’s use in East Timor. The extreme conditions of the Golan Heights on the Israeli-Syrian border is reflected in the worn and weather-beaten United Nations flag flown over Observation Post 71 during Australia’s participation in the United Nations Truce Supervisory Organisation. Each object has a story.
On the 73rd anniversary of Australia’s first peacekeeping deployment, it is important to reflect on the service and sacrifice of so many Australians. We encourage current and former service personnel to continue telling their stories as we expand our collection to better tell the story of Australian peacekeeping into the future.
The Australian War Memorial’s Development Project will be sharing the stories of a new generation of Australian men and women who have served our nation in recent conflicts, and on peacekeeping and humanitarian operations. To share your story email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To stay informed about the Development Project sign up to the Our Next Chapter e-newsletter www.awm.gov.au/ourcontinuingstory/stayinformed