The sixth volume in the Official History of Peacekeeping, Humanitarian and Post–Cold War Operations was officially launched today at the Australian War Memorial by Professor the Hon Gareth Evans, Chancellor of the Australian National University.
Written by Dr Steven Bullard, In their time of need: Australia’s overseas emergency relief operations, 1918–2006 speaks to Australia’s proud record of providing relief and assistance to its strategic partners, allies, and closest neighbours.
The role and capacity of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has changed significantly in the last few decades. While the defence of Australia and its interests remains primary, ADF personnel are increasingly deployed on international operations such as peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief.
Australia was one of the first countries to respond to requests for help after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. In their time of need documents this and other emergency relief operations. It explores the decisions taken at various levels to deploy Australia’s military on these operations, the changing nature of the ADF’s emergency response, and the personal experiences of those who completed these missions.
Dr Bullard has been working on Volume VI since 2007, and said that while it has been a monumental task he is honoured to have had the opportunity to place on the national record the experiences of so many Australians on these missions.
"Writing this book has been a tremendously rewarding experience. Reading about disasters in our region and the personal and official accounts of the subsequent relief operations, often in some of the world’s most underdeveloped countries, has given me a new appreciation of the strength and resilience of the human spirit," Dr Bullard said. "I am proud to have been able to document the experiences of men and women who have responded to overseas disasters in Australia’s name. My hope is that the public takes this opportunity to recognise the significance of this work of our Defence Force and police services during peace time."
Australia has a long history of providing humanitarian assistance. The earliest relief operation occurred in 1918, when HMAS Encounter transported medical supplies and personnel to Samoa, Fiji, and Tonga after an outbreak of influenza. In more recent times emergency food and medical supplies were transported and army engineers deployed for reconstruction to Port Vila in the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) following a devastating cyclone in December 1959.
Director Dr Brendan Nelson said the Memorial plays a vital role in ensuring the continued publication of official military histories, a tradition which began with Australia’s first official war correspondent, Charles Bean.
"This work tells the important but perhaps lesser-known story of our defence force’s involvement in humanitarian operations since the First World War. It highlights another side of the Australian military experience, one of goodwill and development that continues to change and adapt as the twenty-first century progresses," Dr Nelson said.
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