On 14 September each year, we remember those Australian Defence Force personnel, civilians and police forces who have served on international peacekeeping operations.
On a day dedicated to them, National Peacekeepers and Peacemakers Day, we thank the more than 65,000 Australians who have served on more than 50 multi-national missions, including members of the Australian police services.
Our nation’s first peacekeeping mission was as part of a United Nations (UN) operation in the Dutch East Indies (present day Indonesia) between 1947 and 1951 — one of the first UN sanctioned groups of military observers’.
This proud peacekeeping tradition has continued to the present day with our peacekeepers helping countries devastated by war, maintaining peace during an election or providing humanitarian aid.
Peacekeepers can often be confronted with horrific scenes and mission lengths can vary from months to decades, with operations conducted under strict guidelines and mandates. Currently, Australians are serving in operations in South Sudan, Cyprus and in the Middle East.
In our region, we have led, or taken a leading role in, the multinational Peace Monitoring Group in Bougainville (1998–2003), INTERFET in East Timor (1999–2000), and the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (2003–2017).
A memorial to Australian Peacekeepers is located on Anzac Parade in Canberra, which was inaugurated in 2017 and commemorates the courage, sacrifice and service of Australian peacekeepers and peacemakers who have served on missions throughout the world.
Sadly, 16 Australians have died while serving as peacekeepers in an effort to make the world a safer place.
On 14 September, I encourage all Australians to join me in honouring our nation’s peacekeepers and thanking them for their valuable service to the international community.