Commemorating Australian service in East Timor 1999 to 2013 poster

Commemorating Australian service in East Timor 1999 to 2013 poster cover
This poster commemorates Australian service in East Timor, now Timor Leste, from 1999 to 2013. It briefly describes the historical background of our country's role in peacekeeping deployments to oversee East Timor's transition to self-rule.
Series: Commemorative posters

Peacekeeping snapshot

In 1999, after almost 25 years of Indonesian occupation, the people of East Timor were given the chance to vote on whether or not to accept special autonomy as a province within the Indonesian Republic. The ballot was conducted on 30 August 1999, with 78.5% of the voters rejecting autonomy under Indonesia. This paved the way for the country to move towards independence.

The vote was preceded by widespread violence as pro-Indonesian militia sought out suspected independence supporters, and the rampage that followed the overwhelming vote for independence shocked the world. Militia and Indonesian troops embarked on a campaign of destruction, killing hundreds of East Timorese, and driving half the population – about 400,000 people – from their homes. Australian Federal Police, military liaison officers and electoral volunteer staff who were part of the United Nations Assistance Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) to oversee the election were physically threatened.

The international community demanded urgent action. Indonesia bowed to growing pressure and, on 12 September 1999, agreed to the deployment of a peacekeeping force under Australian leadership.

International Force East Timor (INTERFET), commanded by the Australian Major General Peter Cosgrove, was mandated to restore peace and security, support the UN personnel already there and facilitate humanitarian assistance operations. About 5,500 of the 10,000-strong INTERFET were Australian military personnel; the rest were drawn from 22 other nations.

INTERFET began deploying on 20 September 1999 and was confronted on arrival by horrific scenes of destruction across the capital, Dili.

Order was eventually restored, and the last Indonesian troops left East Timor at the end of October 1999. INTERFET was disbanded in February 2000, having fulfilled its purpose. The United Nations took over peacekeeping efforts in East Timor. East Timor was internationally recognised as an independent nation on 20 May 2002 following the presidential election in April and the signing of the 5 May agreements that established the process of popular consultation on East Timor’s future.

However, Australian Defence Force personnel participated in a further 5 missions in East Timor under the auspices of the UN and led an international intervention force to quell military and civil unrest in 2006. The last Australian peacekeepers left East Timor in 2013.


This work is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

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