This commemorative publication is a part of the series; a Century of Service. More than 30,000 Australians have served on peacekeeping operations since 1947. The following stories are about people who have shown great self-control. They have fostered security and safety in fragile environments. They have seen the struggles and triumphs of the human spirit in the face of conflict and disaster. Some have even given their lives in the service of others.
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In the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra there are 15 stained glass windows. Each shows a figure dressed in military uniform, and under each figure is a word which describes a quality displayed by Australians during wartime.
One window features an infantryman with measuring devices, including a right-angle ruler. Originally referring to the self-discipline shown on the battlefields of the First World War, the soldier also represents those Australians who have demonstrated composure and dependability while serving on peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.
This window bears the word Control.
Note to the reader:
Most of the events described take place during conflicts and natural disasters. You may feel sad after reading some of them. Tell a teacher or trusted adult if you require support. There are many mental health organisations that you can talk to if you need help.
Teachers may wish to be sensitive to those students who have personal experience with conflict, family members who are veterans, or parents serving overseas in war zones.
More than 30,000 Australians have served on peacekeeping operations since 1947, and many have delivered humanitarian aid at home and abroad. In complex and dangerous situations they have provided stability along with commitment and compassion, building hope for the future.
The following stories are about people who have shown great self-control, fostering security and safety in exceptionally fragile environments. They have served all over the world, witnessing the struggles and triumphs of the human spirit in the face of conflict and disaster. Some have given their lives in the service of others.
Australian peacekeepers have long operated as military observers, monitoring ceasefires and elections. They have provided medical assistance, helped with disarmament and reconstruction, removed landmines, and promoted sustainable development, all while upholding international law and protecting human rights. In the aftermath of conflicts and natural disasters, Australians have also delivered lifesaving aid.
They have worked in more than 60 peace and security operations, as part of multinational forces. Police officers and civilians have also been deployed on these missions alongside military personnel. Their skills and knowledge help to build relationships with local communities.
Some peacekeeping and humanitarian missions have been administered by the United Nations (UN), while others are led by individual countries or organisations. UN peacekeepers need to be impartial, and cannot use force except in self-defence or in situations allowed by the rules of engagement. They must also have the consent of the conflicting parties to be involved in a mission.
In this book you will notice the shared qualities of these individuals, including the leadership, humility, dedication, and courage required to overcome adversity and understand different points of view.
Despite the challenges, these men and women have acted in a composed and controlled manner in pursuit of universal peace and prosperity. Today, Australians continue to make a difference to people in need all over the world.
In the service of peace: Lieutenant General Robert Nimmo
Robert Harold Nimmo, known as "Harold" to his family, was born in Far North Queensland in November 1893. He came from a large family, the fifth of nine children. Educated at the Southport School on the Gold Coast, he excelled both academically and on the sporting field. These talents proved valuable in the next phase of his life, as a cadet at the Royal Military College (RMC), Duntroon, in the Federal Capital Territory.
In 1912 Harold began his officer training course at RMC. He studied military and academic subjects as well as taking part in various college sports, including rugby. Although the course at RMC was designed to run for four years, Harold's class graduated more than a year early in 1914. Australia had entered the First World War and the cadets were required for active service.
In December 1914, aged 21, Harold embarked for overseas service from Sydney with the 5th Light Horse Regiment. This was the beginning of a long career in military leadership, as Harold would command troops in the Gallipoli and Palestine campaigns of the First World War, and in Australia, New Guinea, and Borneo during the Second World War. He endured personal tragedies during the Second World War, including the deaths of his wife, Peggy, and his son, James, a Royal Australian Air Force pilot who was killed on operations in Europe in 1944.
Harold was awarded a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) medal in 1950, following more than 35 years of distinguished service in the Australian military.
Maj-Gen Nimmo has been commissioned for over 35 years in the Australian Military Forces. He has given outstandingly loyal service and has been a leader not only in his profession but also in many sporting activities. During the 1939/45 War he served with distinction both as a Commander and as a Senior Staff Officer and was selected to command the 34th Infantry Brigade when it was raised for service in Japan at the end of 1945. He commanded 34th Infantry Brigade with distinction and in June 46 was selected as General Officer Commanding Northern Command and promoted to Major-General. By his practical approach to problems and the high regard in which he is held by all classes of the community he has proved himself an able and efficient commander.[fn]"Nimmo, Robert Harold", service records, National Archives of Australia, B2458,11. Courtesy of the National Archives of Australia. Reproduced with permission.[/fn]
When the war finally ended in September 1945, the world was left with the devastating consequences of the conflict and the massive task of rebuilding communities. The UN was officially formed in October 1945, in an effort to promote international cooperation and lasting world peace. Australia was one of 51 founding members of the organisation. Each member signed the UN Charter, which proclaimed:
We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small ... and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security ... have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.[fn]"Charter of the United Nations Preamble", www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/preamble/index.html, accessed 19 February 2019.[/fn]
How do you think Anne may have felt when she received her brother's wristwatch?
Harold's life and career would soon be intertwined with the UN mission for peace. He was well respected by his colleagues and those he commanded, owing to his calm, diligent, and diplomatic approach to leadership. This led to his appointment as the Chief Military Observer of the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), one of the first UN peacekeeping operations. The region of Kashmir was, and remains, a disputed territory in south Asia, as both India and Pakistan claim ownership of the land. The UN observers were deployed to Kashmir in 1949 to ensure a ceasefire between India and Pakistan was upheld. In November 1950, aged 57, Harold arrived to take up his command.
Harold drew from his vast experience to guide the small, multinational force of UN military observers. He purposefully maintained a force with only necessary numbers, so that the observers always had enough to do and felt useful. Harold also ensured that the observers understood the cultural values of both India and Pakistan. The observers were posted along the ceasefire line, which separated the areas controlled by India and Pakistan. They were unarmed, and unable to intervene if fighting broke out between the two parties; instead, they would report any violations to Harold's headquarters to be investigated. One observer, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Coen, noted:
We weren't allowed to take any of our weapons, we didn't go with weapons in the first place - all we had were our blue berets and a white flag.
Did you know?
Peacekeepers are often referred to as the "Blue Berets", and the hat has become a symbol of peacekeeping. It is worn by military, police, and civilian UN personnel so that they are easily distinguishable in areas of operation. At times, a blue helmet is worn instead of the beret.
In their blue berets, peacekeepers are a symbol of hope. They save lives and change lives, they restore order and bring security and stability ... They do it, in the name of compassion and humanity. In the name of what is right.
His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), 2017.[fn]His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove, quoted in Adrienne Francis "National peacekeeping memorial, 12 years in the making, opens on Anzac Parade", Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 14 September 2017, www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-14/peacekeeping-memorial-opens-on-anzac-parade-in-canberra/8945020, accessed 19 February 2019.[/fn]
Why might the UN have chosen blue for the colour of the berets?
In small teams, the observers alternated their time between the opposing forces in order to maintain neutrality. Harold would also travel up the ceasefire line and meet with commanders from both India and Pakistan; however, he was careful to remain impartial.
When Harold was first appointed to command UNMOGIP he was unsure of the length of his posting, and said, "I may remain for two or three years, or it may be only for a few months."[fn]"Nimmo going to post in Kashmir", The Brisbane Telegraph, 16 October 1950, p. 2: http://nla.gov.au/nla.newsarticle212068216, accessed 19 February 2019.[/fn] In the end he was there for more than 15 years. Although the age of retirement was set at 60 years, Harold's leadership was so esteemed by the UN that he was continually extended in his role. Harold himself never sought to retire, saying, "the Army has been my life and I think I will find it hard settling down or even being accepted in a civilian role".[fn]"Nimmo going to post in Kashmir", p. 2.[/fn] He died in his sleep, on active service, in Pakistan in 1966. To date, he is the longest-serving leader of a UN operation.
Between the World Wars, Harold represented Australia in hockey, and played tennis, cricket, rugby, and polo for Victoria. His popularity among his peers in Kashmir was heightened by his excellent skills on the polo field, which is a popular sport in the region.
How might participating in team sports have influenced Harold's leadership style?
A shared journey: Colonel Keith Howard
Keith Desmond Howard spent his childhood on the outskirts of Perth. Born in November 1920, he grew up enjoying the sunshine and exploring and playing in the local bushland with other neighbourhood children. He went to school in a multicultural area. Many of Keith's classmates were of British, Italian, or Greek origin, or of the Jewish faith. He left school aged 15, as was common at the time, to work as a bank clerk. However, he longed for adventure and subsequently joined the Militia as a part-time soldier.
When the Second World War began in 1939, Keith was keen to join the Second Australian Imperial Force (AIF), and he was eventually transferred from the Militia to the 2/16th Battalion. Soon he was travelling to the Middle East, where he would see action in the Syrian campaign, and later he served on Borneo in south-east Asia. When the war was over Keith returned to Perth and worked for his father's company, while continuing to serve as a reservist in the military. He also fell in love.
Keith married Joan Kathleen Warren in 1947. Joan was a war widow with two young daughters. She had served as a nursing orderly in the Voluntary Aid Detachment during the war, until her marriage to an RAAF pilot named Anthony in 1943. Anthony died on war service in 1945, aged 24. When Keith married Joan he adopted her children, and soon they welcomed a daughter.
Did you know?
UNTSO was the first peacekeeping mission established by the UN. The first military observers were deployed in 1948 to supervise the ceasefire between Israel and its Arab neighbours, and it continues in operation to this day. At least 26 countries have contributed to the mission for more than 70 years.
What countries can you see represented on the hat?
Why might Alexander have decorated the hat in this way?
By 1966 Keith's older children were entering adulthood, and he had been promoted to the rank of colonel. Despite experiencing the horrors of war, Keith was drawn to the sense of duty, the social life, and the opportunity to travel that he had encountered in the army. After enquiring about possible overseas postings he was assigned a position as a military observer with the UN Truce ...ervision Organisation (UNTSO) in the Middle East. His family were surprised by his posting, but not opposed to it. Joan shared Keith's adventurous spirit, and was excited at the prospect of living overseas. In 1967 Keith, Joan, and their youngest daughter left Australia, bound for Jerusalem.
Keith flew ahead of Joan, and went to work on 5 June 1967, which turned out to be the start of the Six-Day War between Israel and its surrounding Arab states. The UNTSO headquarters came under attack, as its vantage point made it strategically useful to the Israeli soldiers. Keith and other UN staff, women, and children took shelter in a room, lying low on the ground for safety. Ultimately, the firing stopped and Keith assisted his colleagues with the evacuation of people and records. However, he had not escaped unharmed. In one of his thighs a bullet or piece of shrapnel had lodged, and he was bleeding heavily. Luckily, the wound turned out to be minor, and a doctor suggested the object would work itself out of his leg, so there it remained.
Joan's ship had been diverted as it travelled to the Middle East, and she heard of the incident mid-journey. Keith later explained:
The war in 1967 broke out ... the ship couldn't go through the Suez Canal as it was intended to. Had to take a long trip round Africa in through Gibraltar and Joan got a message in Gibraltar from her father that her husband Major Keith Howard had been wounded or had been shot ... Marvellous. Anyway eventually she arrived in Beirut and was very glad to see me on the wharf waiting to greet her.[fn]Australians at War Film Archive, "Keith Howard", australiansatwarfilmarchive.unsw.edu.au/archive/835-keithhoward, accessed 20 February 2019. Reproduced with permission.[/fn]
Despite a dramatic beginning, Keith, Joan, and their daughter soon settled into life in the Middle East. The political and military situation remained unstable in the region, and Keith's job often took him up to the ceasefire line. Joan recollected that on those occasions "I had to burn his clothes because you know you can just smell death".[fn]Interview with Joan Howard, 2003. AWM S02157.[/fn] Joan rented apartments with short-term leases, as Keith was required to move frequently for work. She looked for homes that were close to the ceasefire line so that he could return home easily.
Along with other UNTSO wives, Joan fostered a sense of normalcy within the UN community. Families met regularly for social activities like tennis, card games, and language lessons. This was important to them, especially as they were discouraged from developing relationships with local people so as to avoid affecting their impartiality. However, Joan did recall a caring act of her local cleaning man during a dangerous period in Gaza:
One night there was a lot of blowing up and he did not return to his refugee camp at five o'clock, he just disappeared so I thought "oh he's gone to the camp as usual" ... anyway it was pretty bad and I didn't know until that morning that kind man slept on the floor outside my door all night, because I think he thought ... "maybe she's scared, maybe I can help" which was very kind, very kind.
Keith and Joan remained in the Middle East for around ten years. In that time Keith held a variety of command positions, including Acting Chief of Staff of UNTSO. In later years he reflected on his military service:
I've, I think, achieved something, I've contributed to the wellbeing of various groups of people, I've been able to do this with the wonderful support of my wife and my family who have to some degree participated in the pleasures and the dangers and the excitements - so it's been a wonderful family life.[fn]Imperial War Museum, "Howard, Keith D. (oral history)", www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80024325, accessed 20 February 2019. Reproduced with permission.[/fn]
"Faith in human compassion": Major Tam Tran
In 1991, scores of Kurdish people left their homes in Iraq to flee persecution and destruction. This followed a failed Kurdish uprising against the Iraqi military in the wake of the First Gulf War. As towns were destroyed by Iraqi soldiers, many Kurds sought safety in the mountains. For Australian Army doctor Tam Tran, the scenes brought back memories from her past.
Thi Thanh Tam Tran, known as "Tam", was born in Vietnam in the 1960s. In 1976 she was "around nine or ten"[fn]Tam Tran, quoted in Susan J. Neuhaus and Sharon Mascall Dare, Not for glory: a century of service by medical women in the Australian army and its allies, Boolarang Press, Brisbane, 2014, p. 252. Reproduced with permission.[/fn] when her family escaped Vietnam by sea, seeking refuge in Australia. In Vietnam she had witnessed the devastation of war and mass-migration as a result of the fall of Saigon. Tam's first impression of Australia was "that it was a big country, sparsely populated and the government and people were all so kind and generous to us".[fn]Correspondence with Tam Tran, 2018.[/fn] Tam's parents became factory workers, and when Tam finished high school she was accepted into medical school. Tam had five siblings; her parents could not afford to fund her degree, so she looked into scholarship programs. She chose an Australian Defence Force (ADF) program, eventually becoming a medical officer in the army.
Tam was part of a team of 75 ADF personnel sent to northern Iraq in 1991 to provide medical assistance to the Kurdish displaced peoples. Dental, engineering, and logistics specialists were also deployed on the operation, code named Habitat. Tam was surprised that she was selected for the mission:
I was scared and excited at the same time. It was exciting to be deployed overseas when I had only been in the Army for a short period of time. There were a lot of people who had been in the Army for much longer than me but did not get to go. But at the same time we were going into a dangerous environment so that was scary.[fn]Tam Tran, 2018.[/fn]
When Tam arrived in Iraq the conditions were immediately challenging. In high altitudes the Kurds lived in cramped makeshift dwellings with minimal food and water, and poor sanitation. They faced danger from landmines scattered across the terrain, left over from the recent conflicts which had plagued the region. Illness and disease were also widespread, so the Australian medical team would wake up early each morning and load their vehicles with ...plies for patients. They travelled on rough roads for up to 200 kilometres a day, providing care to dozens of people in remote settlements. Tam recalled:
My strongest memories were the people and the children I met and treated. Their hardship and sufferings were difficult to forget. Also the destruction of the infrastructure to the town and villages from war were seared into my memory.[fn]Tam Tran, 2018.[/fn]
There were cultural differences to contend with, as Tam's authority was not immediately recognised by the Kurdish elders because she was female. She soon earned their respect, and was even asked to join some of the elders for tea, a ritual traditionally reserved for men.
The Australians remained in Iraq for about two months, and were pleased to witness the achievements of the international relief effort. Families were returning home, children were going back to school, and health levels were rising. The operation proved that ADF personnel had the capacity to operate successfully in humanitarian crises, and it became the foundation for similar missions.
When Tam returned to Australia, she was awarded the Conspicuous Service Medal for her dedication to duty in Iraq. Tam's life experiences gave her a clear perspective:
People all over the world are the same. They all aspire for the same thing and that is to be happy, have peace and freedom in the place they call home. War is destructive and it is not a solution to any problem we may encounter in this world.[fn]Tam Tran, 2018.[/fn]
After further postings, Tam retired from the ADF. She now works as a general practitioner in Queensland.
More than a dozen countries participated in the humanitarian mission for the Kurdish crisis in 1991. The United States named its task force "Operation Provide Comfort", and the United Kingdom called its own mission "Operation Haven".
Why do you think the Australian operation was named "Habitat"? What does this suggest about the purpose of the mission?
Design a badge for Operation Habitat. What colours and symbols will you use to best represent the goals of the mission?
A fateful meeting HMAS Melbourne (II) and MG99
The sea was rough and light was fading on the afternoon of 21 June 1981, when one of HMAS Melbourne's trackers spotted a flare shooting into the sky. It came from a small boat, adrift in the vast South China Sea. The boat was overcrowded, with at least 90 people crammed on a deck no more than 15 metres long. Risking their lives, these South Vietnamese passengers had sought freedom from oppression in their homeland, but were now stranded. Their hope for survival was fading when the tracker circled overhead. Help was on its way.
In darkness, the Melbourne crew arrived to rescue the weary refugees. A rope ladder was hung from the side of the ship, and sailors volunteered to carry the Vietnamese, one by one, to safety. They did so in dangerous conditions, for around three hours, until each of the 99 refugees were saved.
Once onboard, the refugees were treated for severe dehydration, and were fed and clothed by the crew. Trust grew between the two groups, and soon friendships formed despite language barriers. When the ship docked in Singapore, the refugees were settled in a camp. Melbourne's ...ply officer, Commander John Ingram, visited the group and realised that they had little food, so he arranged for provisions to be sent to the camp each day. The crew of the Melbourne also advocated for the group to be permanently settled in Australia, and soon after they arrived there in July 1981.
In the following years, they became known as Melbourne Group 99 (MG99), and many are now Australian citizens. John Ingram had a long career in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), and he considered the rescue of MG99 the highlight. He has remained in contact with the group, noting:
I am unaware of anyone who has not succeeded, either in their professional life, in their personal life ... It has been a remarkably coherent group.[fn]John Ingram, quoted in Mark Corcoran "The luckiest refugees", Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 27 January 2014, www.abc.net.au/news/specials/the-luckiest-refugees, accessed 27 February 2019.[/fn]
A sense of community: Gunner Trenton Prince
Trenton Jon "Trent" Prince was 19 years old when he deployed to Cambodia as a peacekeeper in 1993. He grew up in Ballarat in regional Victoria, with his mother and older sister. At school Trent preferred to be active and outside rather than sitting still in a classroom. He enjoyed playing Australian Rules football, soccer, and badminton. This influenced his decision to join the Australian Army:
I wasn't very interested in school and wasn't enjoying it much ... I knew I wanted a job working in the outdoors and the Army seemed like a good idea. I was 17 at the time. There was a local Army recruitment in Ballarat so it was easily accessible and wasn't much hassle. I had been in cadets and really enjoyed the physical challenge.[fn]Correspondence with Trent Prince, 2019.[/fn]
When Trent learned that he would be deployed to Cambodia he was excited by the opportunity to put his training into action. He was initially selected to serve in Rwanda; however, he was reassigned to Cambodia not long before the planned departure.
Cambodians had suffered much in previous years, experiencing invasion, occupation, civil war, and genocide. The UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) was established to uphold the 1991 Paris Peace Accords, a series of agreements relating to human rights, democratic elections, and law and order in Cambodia. Military observers monitored the ceasefire between warring groups, including hostility from the former regime, the Khmer Rouge.
Trent was struck by the heat and the smell when he arrived in Cambodia. He noted "it was very different to Australia and underdeveloped ... a very poor and basic environment".[fn]Correspondence with Trent Prince, 2019.[/fn] Trent was appointed as a signaller for a military observer team, to communicate observations from the Thailand- Cambodia border to headquarters. His team also reported on the activities of the Khmer Rouge along the border. Trent was the only Australian in the multinational team at the checkpoint. He reflected:
It was great to work with other soldiers from other countries. I learnt so much about other cultures, religions and their way of life. I worked with peacekeepers from Pakistan, Uruguay, China, Poland, Nepal, Britain, Russia and Nigeria ... At the time due to the role we were playing we formed quite strong friendships and levels of trust.[fn]Correspondence with Trent Prince, 2019.[/fn]
In his free time, Trent got to know the local community. He went hunting with the locals for food, including snakes, and joined in their games and activities, like sepak takraw, a type of kick-volleyball. Trent also built relationships with professionals from non-government organisations (NGOs) that were active in the area.
Did you know?
In March 1992 UNTAC became responsible for the major administrative functions of Cambodia, controlling the country's communications, finance, defence, and foreign affairs systems. This authority was undertaken to ensure that fair and free elections could take place in 1993 in order to form a new government.
Peacekeeping is an important part of life after conflict ...posedly ends. The environment can still be very hostile and dangerous, with ongoing acts of conflict erupting. Maintaining the course of democracy after conflict is very important and peacekeeping is one way that external governments can assist internal governments in achieving a democratic society. Peacekeepers utilise all their military skills as well as building relationships with the community.
Trent Prince, 2019
Research and design a poster encouraging the community to vote. How will you explain the process of voting and its importance?
During his deployment, Trent would regularly patrol his local area. On one occasion he was on his dirt bike when he discovered an overloaded truck had come off the road and fallen down a steep embankment. Several people were seriously injured, and Trent was alone and out of radio contact, so he gave his bike and radio to a local to seek help. Using his training, Trent recalls he "rendered first aid to as many of the injured as possible. This involved providing CPR on a seven-year-old girl, who thankfully survived."[fn]Correspondence with Trent Prince, 2019.[/fn] Trent's actions saved the lives of seven Cambodians injured in the accident.
Though Trent had positive experiences in Cambodia, he also faced challenges and great danger. On 1 August 1993, his team base was attacked by the Khmer Rouge and Trent and his colleagues were captured. They were held for eight hours, evidently with the assistance of the Thai military in a politically motivated action. Thailand eventually negotiated the release of the peacekeepers, allowing an UNTAC helicopter to retrieve them two days after they were freed. Despite this distressing event, Trent remembers the genuine satisfaction he felt in helping the local community and how appreciative they were:
Being deployed to serve your country is a very hard and proud thing to do whether it is in a conflict situation or not. Peacekeepers are there to help communities develop and become self-sufficient. Peacekeeping should be recognised as the same as all military service who have been deployed overseas.[fn]Correspondence with Trent Prince, 2019.[/fn]
Despite the serious nature of the UN mission, Trent's team found ways to brighten the mood. They awarded him the unofficial "legend star" award, a humorous recognition of his occasionally reckless decision-making, including driving down a road known to be mined to aid a stranded colleague.
What are some ways you support your family or friends during challenging circumstances?
Australia contributed 500 signallers to the UNTAC Force Communications Unit. The commander of the military component of UNTAC, Australian Lieutenant General John Sanderson, noted that the signallers "were the glue that held the mission together".[fn] Australian War Memorial, "Cambodia (UNTAC), 1992-1993", www.awm.gov.au/collection/U60642, accessed 26 March 2019.[/fn]
Australians organised the "UNTAC Olympic Games", held in January 1993 in Phnom Penh's 1963 Olympic stadium. About 600 competitors from 18 countries took part.
Trent was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross for exceptional devotion to duty in Cambodia. When he learned of the award Trent was surprised, as he felt he was only doing what he was trained to do. His family are proud of his service, though his mother has expressed feeling conflicted because of the traumatic events that Trent experienced in Cambodia.
When Trent retired from the ADF, he spent several years as an outdoor adventure leader, guiding disadvantaged young people in the bush, and teaching them survival skills, resilience, and self-belief.[fn]Correspondence with Trent Prince, 2019.[/fn] He is now married with two children and works as a project director in construction for a government authority, using the conflict management and leadership skills he gained through his peacekeeping service.
"Art without borders": George Gittoes
George Gittoes is not a soldier, but he has witnessed many conflicts. He travels the world recording the human spirit in the most challenging circumstances. With pen, paper, and camera in hand, he has captured the cost of war and in doing so has become a strong advocate for peace.
George Noel Gittoes was born in December 1949 in New South Wales. His parents encouraged his creativity throughout his childhood, and he regularly performed puppet shows in their neighbourhood. These shows became so popular that George charged an entry fee, with the profits going to the Australian Red Cross. He realised art could be used as a powerful tool for social justice, and his future career would be guided by this idea.
As an artist, George has accompanied Australian peacekeepers in several conflict zones, including Cambodia and Somalia. In 1995 he was embedded with a group serving with the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). Their main role was to provide medical support to the multinational peacekeeping force; however, they ended up mostly treating local people who were displaced and suffering in the aftermath of the Rwandan Civil War. When George arrived at a refugee camp near Kibeho in Rwanda he encountered chaos and brutality. Tensions between rival tribal groups caused intense violence, and the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) had begun firing upon the displaced peoples. The Australians were unable to intervene to prevent the fighting as they were bound by UNAMIR's strict rules of engagement. They tried their best to save lives, often risking their own to retrieve the wounded. The medics set up a temporary hospital, which was protected from the RPA by Australian infantry soldiers, some as young as 18.
Despite the danger, George photographed the tragic scenes and helped to carry the wounded. He thinks his fearless nature helped him to remain calm: "I never get terrified, I just don't. I see that as a defect of my personality."[fn]Interview with George Gittoes, 1995. AWM S01702[/fn] George's images of Kibeho have helped to ensure that the massacre and its victims will be remembered. He has said of his time there:
With my photography I felt that I was the only person who could fight back and so there was nothing in the world that was going to stop me from doing it.
Since Rwanda, George has continued to document people's lives in conflict zones, sensing that "art can make a difference. It's art without borders".[fn]Steve Dow, "George Gittoes on staying optimistic in war zones", Art Guide Australia, www.artguide.com.au/georgegittoes- on-staying-optimistic-in-war-zones, accessed 14 March 2019. Reproduced with permission.[/fn] In 2010 he founded Yellow House Jalalabad, a creative centre in Afghanistan where locals can express their experiences through art and performance. George was awarded the 2015 Sydney Peace Prize for his life's work as a war artist and activist.
Did you know?
The red cross is an international symbol of charity, and it signals protection to all who require aid. This Christian symbol was chosen for the emblem of the Red Cross organisation as it was thought to be universally recognised on the battlefield. However, in the late 19th century the Islamic symbol of the red crescent moon was adopted by the Ottoman empire. Both symbols continue to be used today.
George records the stories of those he meets in his sketchbooks. In this sketch he has drawn and written about Captain Carol Vaughn-Evans, a medical officer at Kibeho. Carol was awarded a Medal for Gallantry for her bravery and leadership in Rwanda.
Carol later reflected on her experiences:
"It didn't stop us working, but we thought a lot about what was going on and why. I'm incredibly proud of everyone. They were not overwhelmed by what seemed impossible. People who were at Kibeho have a special bond, a special closeness." Reproduced with the permission of the Australian Army, AWM2019.8.28
Carol thought George's presence at Kibeho was very important:
"If the soldiers there won't often tell their story, it's the person, the war artist, or the reporter at the scene who tells the story for us."[fn]Australians at War Film Archive, "Carol Ferguson", australiansatwarfilmarchive.unsw.edu.au/archive/2447-carolferguson, accessed 14 March 2019. Reproduced with permission.[/fn]
Why do you think it might be difficult for soldiers to tell their own stories?
How do you think George's sketches differ from his photographs?
Why do you think he works in both mediums?
Hope for the future Private Theogene Ngamije
In April 2017 a group of recruits marched out of the Australian Army training centre at Kapooka. Among them was Theogene Ngamije, whose enlistment held particular significance.
Theogene was born in Rwanda. He was separated from his parents in the Kibeho refugee camp as a child, never to see them again. He said "no day was easy, it was hard. I was always scared, hungry and intimidated."[fn]Claire Hunter, "He saved my life", Australian War Memorial, 2017, www.awm.gov.au/articles/blog/theogene_ ngamije_on_how_peacekeeping_changed_his_life, accessed 14 March 2019.[/fn] Theogene felt little hope for the future, but one act of compassion helped to change this:
On the good day ... a tall Australian soldier took a knee and offered me a piece of biscuit and Australian flag patch from his uniform. That kindness came when I needed it most ... It is stuck on my heart and it feels like it was only yesterday.[fn]Hunter, "He saved my life".[/fn]
Theogene carried the patch on his long journey to safety, through refugee camps across four African countries. After moving to Australia and gaining citizenship, he decided to join the army to show his appreciation to the peacekeeper who had helped him in his childhood. After Kapooka, Theogene joined the Ordnance Corps. He hopes to be deployed as a peacekeeper, and prays "that someday I get to change someone else's life".[fn]Hunter, "He saved my life".[/fn]
Why do you think Theogene kept the flag patch?
Did you know?
Most UN vehicles and aircraft are painted white so that they can be differentiated from those used by militaries in conflicts. Often the letters "UN" are painted in large black letters on the sides and tops of their assets.
How might colours and symbols protect peacekeepers?
George photographed Private Graeme "Brownie" Brown in Somalia in 1993. Graeme served with the multinational Unified Task Force (UNITAF), which aimed to provide a safe environment for humanitarian relief organisations to deliver aid in war-torn Somalia. Graeme recalled:
"I had learnt the local greeting ‘Sahib' and once I had said it, the local children knew I was a friend … Patrolling the streets made the women and children feel safe … With all the suffering that was happening, they still had time to smile. I will always have a special connection to this moment and Somalia."[fn]Graeme Brown, quoted in Lachlan Grant and Michael Bell, For Country, for Nation, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 2018, p. 170. Reproduced with permission.[/fn]
"Faithful and strong": HMAS Tobruk (II)
All sorts of knowledge, equipment, and ...plies are required to support peacekeeping and humanitarian missions. HMAS Tobruk (II) provided logistical support for such operations. The Tobruk was launched in 1980, with the capacity to transport significant loads and accommodate 520 personnel. The ship could move up to 18 tanks, and featured two helicopter decks and a vehicle deck.
In December 1992 the Tobruk crew were recalled from their Christmas leave as the ship was required to support humanitarian operations in war-torn Somalia. They departed Australia on New Year's Eve, on the largest RAN sealift operation since the Vietnam War. The ship arrived in Mogadishu in January 1993 and remained in use in Somalia for four months. As well as providing logistical support, the Tobruk housed rest and recreation facilities for ground forces.
The Tobruk had more than 34 years of decorated service, deploying to Israel, East Timor (Timor-Leste), Bougainville, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, and the Philippines. It was decommissioned in 2015, and was sunk in Queensland in 2018 for use as a tourist dive sight.
At the decommissioning ceremony, then Fleet Commander Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer said "Tobruk has changed lives ... Tobruk goes to places where health and safety and order are missing and brings safety and hope."[fn]Stuart Mayer, quoted in Chris Hook, "Farewell for proud RAN vessel, the HMAS Tobruk", The Daily Telegraph, 31 July 2015, www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/farewell-for-proud-ran-vessel-the-hmas-tobruk/newsstory/ 34eb4eacea3d8eb756891bed3e503204, accessed 29 April 2019. Reproduced with permission.[/fn] The ship's final Commanding Officer, Commander Lief Maxfield added:
Being able to be part of a defence force that has achieved so much assistance for people in need, those are the moments that stick in your memory and those are the ones that make you really proud to be part of the Royal Australian Navy.[fn]Lief Maxfield, quoted in Shuba Krishnan, "HMAS Tobruk decommissioned in Sydney after 35 years of navy humanitarian missions", Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 31 July 2015, www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-31/ hmas-tobruk-bows-out-after-35-years-at-sea/6662486, accessed 29 April 2019.[/fn]
Sharing culture: Sergeant Penelope "Poppy" Searle
Poppy Searle fulfilled a lifelong ambition to serve when she joined the Australian Army as a reservist in 1996. Born Penelope Crone in Portsmouth in the United Kingdom, her family migrated to Australia when she was a baby. Her father was a sea captain and her mother a nurse, and there was a strong family history of military service. The Crones settled in Canberra in 1972 but were keen travellers, and throughout her youth Poppy spent time in Europe, Africa, India, and Japan.
Poppy was encouraged to practise languages, and by the end of school she could speak French, German, Swahili, and Japanese. She says, "I think you understand other people better if you make the effort to use their language, even if all you can say is hello and please and thank you."[fn]Correspondence with Poppy Searle, 2019.[/fn] She used her skill with languages when she deployed to Bougainville in March 2000 as a signaller with the Peace Monitoring Group (PMG).
Bougainville is located between Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, and its people identify strongly with Solomon Islands culture. A bid for independence from Papua New Guinea, partially triggered by environmental concerns from mining operations, led to conflict in 1988. Following years of unrest, a truce was declared in 1997, and the New Zealand-led Truce Monitoring Group (TMG) was established. Australia sent civilian officials from government agencies and the Australian Federal Police to assist with the peace process. The PMG was formed, and included unarmed military and civilian personnel from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Vanuatu.
Poppy's uncles also served in the British Army, and her father's love for the sea led him to join the Royal Naval Reserve. Although Poppy is the fourth generation in her family to serve, she is the first to do so in the Australian Army.
At the time, reservists were required for the mission as the regular army was focused on peacekeeping in East Timor (Timor-Leste). Poppy volunteered to serve on Bougainville, eager to visit the Pacific islands and to perform her military duties during a real operation monitoring the ceasefire arrangements and supporting the peace process in the lead-up to anticipated elections.
Arriving aboard a C130 Hercules, Poppy felt as though she had stepped into a different time and place. The plane had been diverted from the main island owing to poor weather conditions, forced to land instead on the smaller Buka Island. Here and there Poppy could see anti-aircraft guns from the Second World War, abandoned and rusting in the tropical climate.
Roads were limited on Bougainville, so Poppy's team spent a lot of time walking. Though her childhood had been filled with outdoor activities, she learned about soldiering in the jungle from her colleagues, including her patrol commander, Warrant Officer Arnold Vira of Vanuatu. Arnold spoke fluent pidgin, which helped him to build relationships with the local community. The culturally diverse team included two Fijians, and Poppy recalls that "in Fijian culture it is a sign that a man [is said to be looking] after his woman well if the woman is fat so they spent the whole deployment trying to feed me up and were always offering to carry the radio for me".[fn]Correspondence with Poppy Searle, 2019.[/fn]
As her team's radio operator, Poppy carried a portable high-frequency radio on patrols, and in villages she would set up the antenna to sustain contact with headquarters. The radio was essential for the team's safety, especially if they found themselves in dangerous situations. Poppy was also responsible for maintaining the power generator and any radio communications at her team site.
Throughout her deployment Poppy met many local people. She practised her pidgin at every opportunity and got to know local families. The local children enjoyed chatting about sport, plants, and wildlife on the island. They often showed off their running, tumbling, and sling shot skills. Poppy reflected:
After a while talking to the children, the mums would come over and send the kids to play. Then we would talk about the things they were worried about - mostly their children's futures, how they would get a good education, what jobs there would be for them - the same stuff every mum worries about.[fn]Correspondence with Poppy Searle, 2019.[/fn]
Did you know?
Members of the PMG were easily recognisable in their yellow shirts and hats on Bougainville. Members were unarmed, and Poppy noted that "the qualities needed to stay safe and achieve the mission were different to if you had a weapon. It was important to be flexible and compassionate but always professional and clear about the mission and the overarching responsibilities."[fn]Correspondence with Poppy Searle, 2019.[/fn]
Why might yellow have been chosen for the PMG uniforms?
What other symbols can you identify in this picture?
During her five months on Bougainville, Poppy saw great improvements in living conditions as a result of the peace process. Her team assisted with a village reconstruction project, and she was impressed by the tenacity and work ethic of the local people:
When we went to Bougainville to keep the peace there had been 15 years of fighting on the island. During that time the schools were closed and lots of things like hospitals were destroyed. One of the first things that happened when the peace was made was that schools reopened. I was amazed to see young adults of 16 or 17 sitting in primary school classes with 5 and 6 year olds because they had missed out on all their schooling but they knew it was important to learn to read and write.[fn]Correspondence with Poppy Searle, 2019.[/fn]
When Poppy returned to her "real job", which happened to be at the Australian War Memorial, she found her time on Bougainville strengthened her connections with other veterans. While organising a plaque dedication ceremony for the Australian Women's Army Service, she bonded with the women who had served in Papua New Guinea during the Second World War. Despite serving many years apart, they shared similar experiences: "we all turned yellow from our anti-malarial medication and we all got nasty rashes on our necks from our dog tags".[fn]Correspondence with Poppy Searle, 2019.[/fn]
Poppy continues to serve with the Australian Army Reserve, and now lives in Katherine in the Northern Territory. She is currently the Director of the Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts and Culture Centre, a place that shares the stories and cultural spirit of the region.
An adventurous spirit: Squadron Leader Paul McCarthy
Paul Stuart McCarthy was born in October 1974 in Brisbane, the youngest child of Haila and John. His adventurous spirit was apparent from a young age. He loved to play sport, and represented his high school in rugby, basketball, cricket, and rowing. He was also a gifted student with a strong interest in science, though his sporting commitments took up much of his time. Towards the end of his schooling he decided to apply to study medicine, and worked hard to obtain the high marks required for entry. He and his parents were thrilled when he was offered a place at the University of Queensland. He would become the first doctor in the family.
In Paul's fourth year at university he joined the RAAF, which financially supported the rest of his studies. Although he had enlisted for practical reasons, he came from a family of servicemen. Two of his great-grandfathers served in the First World War, while his grandfather was a member of the RAAF during the Second World War. Paul's uncle is also a retired RAAF Wing Commander.
In 2001 Paul was granted leave from the RAAF to compete in a trans-Atlantic rowing race with his good friend from university, Dr Patrick Weinrauch. Both were surf lifesavers and surf boat rowing enthusiasts. Paul and Patrick built most of their boat themselves, and packed it with ...plies for their long journey. They rowed for 45 days, covering 5,000 kilometres and finishing second, excited to see their loved ones and at the prospect of fresh food. When Paul returned to work he was deployed to Kyrgyzstan, Iraq, and East Timor (Timor-Leste). He was later posted to Western Australia, which suited him as he could kite-surf in his spare time. He missed his family, but phoned home each week to keep in touch. By this time Paul was a senior medical officer and an expert in aeromedical evacuations. He had assisted with civilian rescues, gaining experience working in complex medical situations, including the RAAF evacuation of severe burns victims after the 2002 Bali Bombings.
Paul's skills would soon be put to the test in the wake of incredible tragedy. On Boxing Day 2004, an intense earthquake in the Indian Ocean caused several tsunamis to roll towards the shores of Asia and Africa, devastating communities and killing thousands. Indonesia bore the brunt of the damage, with more than 150,000 citizens dying as a result of the natural disaster. Within 36 hours, ADF personnel and Australian aid workers were deployed to the region on Operation Sumatra Assist. Paul was sent to lead a small aeromedical evacuation team.
For close to three months, Paul and his team were part of a combined effort to deliver humanitarian aid to Banda Aceh, the worst-affected area in Sumatra. Paul's caring nature and calm leadership were valuable to the mission, and he was well respected by his colleagues. He spoke Bahasa, and easily conversed with the local people. Paul worked up to 12-hour shifts in Sumatra, but when work was over he would get out his textbooks; he was studying to be a general practitioner and preparing for life outside of the RAAF, hoping to join the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Operation Sumatra Assist and Operation Sumatra Assist Phase II
During these operations the ADF distributed 1,200 tonnes of supplies to Indonesia by air. More than 70 aeromedical evacuations were performed, and some 4,000 patients were treated by ADF medical personnel.
The ADF also produced 4.7 million litres of clean water for the region, and cleared 9,000 cubic metres of debris that was caused by the Boxing Day tsunami.
In the village of Lahewa on Nias Island, the ADF repaired the water pump and generator. Why might this be crucial to the relief effort?
Do you think Australia has a responsibility to contribute to international humanitarian relief? Explain your reasons.
Operation Sumatra Assist was winding up in late March 2005 when another earthquake occurred, devastating the Indonesian island of Nias.
On 2 April Paul was travelling over Nias in a Navy Sea King helicopter when it crashed and caught fire. Two passengers survived the accident, but Paul and eight of his colleagues died. He was 30 years old.
On the first anniversary of the crash, Paul's mother, Haila, and his brother David, a serving police officer, visited Nias with other bereaved families to attend a memorial service. They had brought ...plies for the local school and Haila gave out balloons; this delighted the children, who had never seen balloons before. The trip allowed the families of the Sea King victims to witness the positive impact of the humanitarian aid provided to Nias since the earthquake.
Each year on Paul's birthday, his family gather to celebrate his life. Though he was tall and strong, Paul's friends knew him as a "gentle giant", as compassionate as he was daring. His high school and the Universities of Queensland and the Sunshine Coast now award annual bursaries in his memory.
Why might the artist have chosen this subject to paint?
Why might the artist have donated the painting to the Australian War Memorial?
During operation Sumatra Assist Phase II, sailors from HMAS Kanimbla were deployed as "Kindergarten Cops". They spent time on Nias Island playing soccer and entertaining the local children. This kept the children occupied, allowing the ADF medical staff to attend to those injured in the recent earthquake.
Following the 2005 Sea King crash, locals on Nias created a memorial to the lost personnel with the assistance of the ADF.
People remember their friends and loved ones in many different ways. At the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, visitors place poppies on the Roll of Honour to commemorate those Australians who have died in war or on operational service with Australian forces.
How might you commemorate Australia's peacekeepers and humanitarian aid providers?
Research places of importance in your community. Why are they special?
"Unconquerable soul": Captain Benjamin Farinazzo
In Benjamin Farinazzo's lounge room three traditional Timorese weavings, called tais, hang from a spear. They were gifts of respect and appreciation, reminders of his time in East Timor (Timor-Leste), where he served as a peacekeeper in 1999. Known to his friends as "Ben", he was born in Brisbane and attended boarding school on the Gold Coast. Growing up, Ben loved athletics, and riding horses and BMX bikes. He was also creative, and enjoyed art and building cubby houses.
Ben was an army cadet at school, and enrolled at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) in Canberra after year 12. During his army officer training, he appreciated spending time in the bush and decided to join the infantry. While at ADFA he was sent to Indonesia, and later studied the language. Ben had an interest in languages, and already spoke Italian, which he learned from his grandparents as a child. He graduated from ADFA, and was awarded the Chief of Defence Force Army Prize for leadership and academic and military excellence.
After years of officer training, Ben was excited when he learned of his deployment with the International Force East Timor (INTERFET). The Australian-led force was established to restore order and provide humanitarian aid following extreme violence in the country. Once a Portuguese colony, East Timor was invaded and taken over by Indonesia in 1975. In 1999 a referendum was held and the people voted overwhelmingly for independence. Pro-Indonesian militia reacted viciously, and many East Timorese were killed or displaced in the ensuing chaos. Ben was sent as an interpreter and community liaison officer, and recalls his first impressions of the country:
The place was on fire. All the houses had been burnt down and people had nowhere to live. There was no fresh water, food or showers ... I was glad that we were there to help them.[fn]Correspondence with Ben Farinazzo, 2019.[/fn]
By the time Ben arrived many people had fled to the hills to escape violence in urban areas. Terrible events had occurred in places like Suai, where up to 200 people were killed in a church by the pro-Indonesian militia. In the aftermath of this massacre, Ben was part of the team that helped displaced children search for their families. On a cloudy day, he attended the first church service held since the killings. There he met a local woman named Ibu Terezina:
All the East Timorese were quiet. I walked over to Ibu Terezina and asked her if she wanted to say something. She started singing "Hallelujah". Everyone joined in and a ray of sunlight split the clouds, shining brightly onto everyone gathered. There were goosebumps and tears. A soldier come over to me and said, "After all that I've seen I wasn't sure if there was a God, but he was definitely among us today."[fn]Correspondence with Ben Farinazzo, 2019.[/fn]
Ben photographed the first children he saw in East Timor in 1999. They had recently returned from hiding in the hills and were singing outside the army compound in Dili.
East Timorese children lacked things that many Australians take for granted, like safety, food, and shelter. Reflecting on his experiences with these children, Ben feels it is important to "say a small prayer for the kids in the world that are cold, hungry and scared, and save a special thought and thank you for our peacekeepers".[fn]Correspondence with Ben Farinazzo, 2019.[/fn]
Ben's team was sent on patrols in the hills, where he explained INTERFET's mission to the locals, offering hope for a brighter future. Understanding that people were scared, he told them that the peacekeepers were there to bring safety and assist with rebuilding homes and lives. As Ben was one of few soldiers who spoke the language, he built strong relationships within the local community.
Ben met Australian official war artist Wendy Sharpe while she was attached to the Army History Unit in East Timor in 1999. Wendy was there to document the peacekeeping mission, and she painted Ben in this image of the army recreation area in Suai, known as the "Shangri-La". The term Shangri-La describes an earthly paradise. The red and yellow streamers in the painting are Christmas decorations.
Why might the peacekeepers have a recreation area?
On a stormy evening at the team camp Ben was told some locals were asking for "Captain Ben". Standing at the front gate was a man and two women, one of whom was heavily pregnant. Her name was Umbellina, and her husband and mother had accompanied her from the hills in the intense rain, as she was about to have her baby. They had been hiding for more than a month, surviving on boiled tree roots. Ben took the family to the makeshift medical centre in the camp and a doctor prepared the area for the birth. Ben was asked to help:
I had done a lot of training ... to become an army officer but nothing could have prepared me for this ... I tried using words like nafas, meaning breathe, and dorong, which means push. I hope that helped. Eventually a healthy baby boy arrived and the storm stopped. Everyone was so happy.
A change in the tide
Ben wrote a poem about his experiences with INTERFET, and it was adapted into a short film. Each time he watches the footage it brings back memories.
Excerpt from A change in the tide:
Now shadows are rising, and a new tide is in,
reminding the people that they must not give in
Now they come from the hills where once they did hide,
feeling assured that we'll stand by their side Gathering remnants of their lives, of their past, building a future on which their thoughts now are cast Now everyday there's a change in the street, fresh signs of life, and fresh pattering of feet Birds now are singing, joining children in song, with much work to be done, days not nearly as long.[fn]Ben Farinazzo, A change in the tide, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zf-fnpTO1QI&feature=youtu.be, accessed 18 April, 2019.[/fn]
Write a poem about an important moment in your life, what words will you use to express your experiences?
It was a strong reminder that despite the terrible conditions that life could and must go on. A beautiful little baby boy, born on a cold, concrete floor of burnt-out classroom in the middle of a raging storm. A symbol of hope, new life, and new beginnings.[fn]Correspondence with Ben Farinazzo, 2019.[/fn]
After the baby was born, the parents asked Ben if he would like to name the child, but he graciously declined. They smiled and asked if they could name him after Ben, a moment which he says he will never forget. Before returning to Australia, Ben visited the family to make sure they were alright and he gave them a few items from a care package he had saved. He recently reflected:
I never saw Baby Benjamin again. He would be 20 years old this year. I often think about him and his family. I wonder if he is still alive and what his life is like. I would like to go back one day and look for him and introduce him to my children.[fn]Correspondence with Ben Farinazzo, 2019.[/fn]
Umbellina gave Ben one of the tais that now hangs in his lounge room. He received the others from Ibu Terezina, and a man named Hermenezildo, who taught Ben local dialects.
Ben retired from the army in 2002, and has since worked in several senior executive positions and as an ambassador for various charities. He considers his service in East Timor to be the highlight of his military career, though the distressing events he experienced there left him with deep mental scars. Ben was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). During his recovery, he was seriously injured in a mountain bike accident. Ben had to learn to walk again, and he credits the constant support of his wife, Jodie, and their three children with saving his life. Ben was selected to compete in the 2018 Sydney Invictus Games, which uses the healing power of sport to motivate and encourage physically and mentally wounded veterans. He met many local and international competitors and was inspired by their spirit:
There were so many incredible stories. Stories about having courage and doing your best despite the challenges in life … I felt like I was surrounded by superheroes. [fn]Correspondence with Ben Farinazzo, 2019[/fn]
Ben won two gold medals in indoor rowing and achieved a personal best in powerlifting at the games. He had not expected to win, and was already grateful for the opportunity to compete. On being awarded his medals, an overjoyed Ben shared a celebratory hug with his family and friends who had helped him get there.
Ben continues to advocate for veterans and their families, and encourages those struggling with their mental health to seek help. He believes Australian children can commemorate the service of peacekeepers by learning and sharing their stories.
Did you know?
Servicemen and servicewomen are often away from home during special events like birthdays and Christmas. Sometimes performers visit troops to entertain them and boost morale. Comedians, actors, singers, and dancers have brought laughter and joy in the midst of conflict.
On 21 December 1999 a concert called "Tour of Duty" was held in Dili stadium in East Timor. John Farnham and Kylie Minogue were among those who performed for thousands of INTERFET personnel and locals.
The concert was broadcast in Australia, and some peacekeepers took the opportunity to hold up signs with well wishes for their families back home.
The impact of service
Ben is an ambassador for Soldier On, an Australian organisation which helps service personnel and their families to build successful futures through heath, wellbeing, employment, education, and social programs. Soldier On promotes positive mental health as well as physical health.
Since 1947, Australian peacekeepers and aid workers have deployed to conflict and disaster zones across the world. Many have witnessed and experienced severe emotional distress as a result of their service. Some will relive traumatic events in vivid memories and nightmares, and may become overly alert and detached from the people and activities they love. These symptoms are often a sign of PTSD, and can lead to conditions like depression and anxiety.
With professional support, people who suffer from PTSD can manage their symptoms and feel better. Ben found that participating in sport and exercise greatly helped with his rehabilitation, and he names competing in the Invictus Games as one of the best experiences of his life:
We had no idea that the Invictus Games were going to be like an Olympic Games, with so many people from around the world. Everyone was so supportive and positive that it made you feel so special and lucky. It was a week filled of tears, goosebumps, and hugs! [fn]Correspondence with Ben Farinazzo, 2019.[/fn]
Ben on the podium at the 2018 Sydney Invictus Games. The games were named after the poem Invictus, by William Ernest Henley, from which the title of this story is taken. The word "Invictus" is Latin for "unconquered". The poem concludes with the lines:
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.[fn]William Ernest Henley, Invictus, 1875[/fn]
What do these words mean to you? Why might they resonate with veterans like Ben?
Leading the way: Major General Cheryl Pearce
Cheryl Pearce was born in Loxton, South Australia, and graduated from the Officer Cadet School Portsea in December 1985, part of the first integrated class of male and female officers in the Australian Army. Since then, she has served in leadership positions in Australia and overseas. In 2002, as part of the UN, Cheryl served as a military observer in East Timor, where she was awarded a Chief of Defence Force Commendation for bravery. Between 2003 and 2006 she commanded two separate Military Police units and was made a Member of the Order of Australia for her exceptional service.
In 2016 Cheryl served as the Commander Task Group Afghanistan. In addition to her command responsibilities, her role was to build relationships across the multinational force and contribute to the advancement of the operation, which provided training and support to the Afghan National Security Force. In 2017, as Commandant of the Australian Defence Force Academy, her focus turned to the development of the character and intellect of Australia's future ADF officers.
Cheryl is currently the Force Commander of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). Promoting authenticity, impartiality, and respect, she aims to provide a purposeful environment for her staff. Cheryl is the second woman in the UN's history to have been selected as force commander of a peacekeeping mission.
Why might it be important for both women and men to be involved in peacekeeping missions?
Did you know?
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has contributed to international peacekeeping missions across the world. In 1964, 40 AFP officers were sent to Cyprus to serve with UNFICYP. Cyprus was, and remains, divided into Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities with a history of violence between them. AFP officers helped maintain peace between the two groups. Though they had no powers of arrest, the police supported justice by investigating criminal offences, preserving public order, and assisting with humanitarian matters and other tasks. In 2017, the AFP withdrew from the mission in Cyprus after more than 53 years of service.
Why do you think that police and civilian officials have been deployed on peacekeeping missions alongside military personnel?
How might these groups be able to support each other?
Where did these stories take place?
- New Guinea
- East Timor (Timor-Leste)
- East Timor (Timor-Leste)
- East Timor (Timor-Leste)
Many peacekeepers and aid workers form connections with local people during their deployments. Members of the Australian Medical Support Force for the UN mission in Rwanda met these children in 1994.
RAAF nursing officer Lyndall Moore served with the force in 1995. As well as caring for UN personnel, her team provided aid to the locals. Lyndall worked in a hospital intensive care unit and with an aeromedical evacuation team. Reflecting on her experiences, she said:
I was proud to serve not only my country, but those people … Their impact on me was in many respects profound and I will never forget those children who suffered in silence and found laughter in simple things.
Lyndall Moore, "Remembering Rwanda", Australian Nursing Journal, vol. 4, issue 10, 1997, p. 19. Geoffrey Fox, AWM MSU/94/0009/27
Our physical presence brought a feeling of security and safety to the local population, sufficient that over time they started to resume a new normal life. And that's an amazing feeling.
Brigadier Alison Creagh CSC (Retd), who served as a peacekeeper in Cambodia and East Timor during her military career.
|activist||A person who works to promote social or political change.|
|aeromedical evacuation||The use of aircraft (usually military) to transport sick and wounded people.|
|anti-aircraft||Describing defensive weapons designed to damage or destroy enemy aircraft.|
|anxiety||When feelings of worry and fear are ongoing and impact on a person's daily life and mental health.|
|Australian Imperial Force||The volunteer army raised in Australia in 1914 for overseas service in the First World War.
The Second Australian Imperial Force served in the Second World War.
|Australian Red Cross||A humanitarian and community services organisation founded in 1914 shortly after the beginning of the First World War.|
|C130 Hercules||An American-made military aircraft designed for cargo and personnel transport and aeromedical evacuation.|
|cadet||Officer cadet is the rank held by servicemen and servicewomen in the Australian Army or Royal Australian Air Force during their initial training as commissioned officers. Cadets can also refer to members of youth organisations affiliated with the Australian Defence Force.|
|care package||Gifts sent to military personnel who may be serving far from home. Packages often include personal letters and food or hygiene items.|
|ceasefire||A suspension of fighting agreed upon by opposing forces.|
|charter||A formal written document which establishes the essential functions and values of an organisation.|
|CIE||CIE refers to a companion of the Order of the Indian Empire, an honour which is now inactive.|
|civil war||A conflict between citizens of the same country.|
|decommissioned||An item or asset retired from service, usually when it no longer functions effectively or will be replaced by more advanced technology.|
|deployed||Sent to an operational area.|
|depression||A serious medical condition that can affect a person’s physical and mental health.|
|dialects||Forms of language that are local to a specific region or group. A dialect may be a variation of the standard language.|
|disarmament||The removal or reduction of military weapons or forces.|
|displaced peoples||People who have been forced to move from their local environment, often because of armed conflict or disaster.|
|dog tags||An American term for military identity discs, usually worn around the neck by servicemen and servicewomen.|
|fall of Saigon||The capture of Saigon by communist North Vietnamese forces, signifying the end of the Vietnam War and leading to the reunification of the north and south Vietnam.|
|Federal Capital Territory||The name of the Australian Capital Territory until 1938.|
|First Gulf War||A war which occurred during 1990-91 in the Middle East, fought between international coalition forces and Iraq following the Iraqi military invasion and occupation of Kuwait.|
|flare||An item which produces a very bright flame, often used to signal distress in emergency situations.|
|free elections||A process where people are able to vote for a leader or party of their choice, and express their political opinions, without fear or intimidation.|
|genocide||The intentional destruction of a particular group of people, who may be grouped by race, ethnicity, religion, or nationality.|
|humanitarian||Relates to the promotion of human welfare, dignity, and respect.|
|impartial||Not supporting any rivals during an argument or conflict and treating both equally.|
|interpreter||A person who explains or translates information when a common language is not shared by individuals. In the military, interpreters are common in multinational forces and sometimes work in intelligence-gathering.|
|Jerusalem||A city in the Middle East with religious significance for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
It is claimed by both Israel and Palestine.
|kina||The currency of Papua New Guinea.|
|Lancaster bomber||A British-made military aircraft used heavily in the Second World War, with capacity to carry and deploy a heavy weight in explosives.|
|landmines||Explosives concealed on or just beneath the ground to destroy or harm an enemy. Landmines are usually triggered by contact from a person or vehicle.|
|liaison||Communication between organisations or people who may work closely.|
|logistics||Relating to organisation and planning. In the military this can involve the development, procurement, storage, maintenance, and distribution of resources for operations.|
|Militia||Refers to the reserve or part-time forces of the Australian armed forces from 1916 to 1980.|
|multinational||Involving multiple countries or people of different nationalities.|
|neutrality||Neither helping nor supporting any side in a conflict or argument.|
|non-government organisations||Groups which are usually not-for-profit and work to deliver humanitarian aid or promote social change.|
|OBE||The Order of the British Empire (OBE) is awarded to individuals who have made significant contributions to the arts, sciences, or charitable causes in the United Kingdom.|
A commission (rank) held by a serviceman or servicewoman in a position of authority, generally with the responsibly to lead and develop the skills of others.
|Ordnance Corps||The division within the Australian Army responsible for the supply of equipment and administration.|
|pidgin||A simplified form of language developed when different groups do not share a common language. Pidgin can be a mix of simple vocabulary drawn from several languages.|
|referendum||A vote where an electorate decides on a particular issue. In Australia a referendum is a vote on a matter which could lead to a change to the constitution.|
|regime||The government of a country, often used in reference to authoritarian powers.|
|regular army||A full-time force maintained in both peace and wartime.|
|reservist||A person who is involved in the military part-time.|
|Royal Flying Doctor Service||An Australian organisation which provides emergency and primary health care, including aeromedical evacuations, to remote and regional areas of the country.|
|rules of engagement||The factors which define the appropriate use of force or actions for servicemen and servicewomen on operations. The UN rules of engagement state that its peacekeepers must use the minimum force required to achieve their aims. They are generally permitted to use force only in self-defence or, in certain circumstances, in defence of their mission.|
|sealift||The large-scale transportation of people, supplies, and equipment by sea.|
|Six-Day War||A conflict in 1967 between Israel and neighbouring Arab countries, ending in Israeli victory and occupation of foreign territory.|
|social justice||The notion that all people should have equal access to wealth, opportunity, justice, and wellbeing.|
|soldiering||The activities of a serving soldier. 'Soldiering on' can also mean persevering despite challenges.|
|trackers||American-made aircraft originally used in anti-submarine warfare to locate, damage, or destroy enemy submarines.|
|truce||An agreement between conflicting individuals or groups to pause fighting for a particular period.|
In the service of peace: Lieutenant General Robert Nimmo
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A shared journey: Colonel Keith Howard
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"Faith in human compassion": Major Tam Tran
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A sense of community: Gunner Trenton Prince
- Correspondence with Trent Prince, 2019.
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"Art without borders": George Gittoes
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Sharing culture: Sergeant Penelope "Poppy" Searle
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An adventurous spirit: Squadron Leader Paul McCarthy
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"Unconquerable soul": Captain Benjamin Farinazzo
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Leading the way: Major General Cheryl Pearce
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- Ancestry - www.ancestrylibrary.com
- Australian War Memorial - www.awm.gov.au
- Department of Veterans' Affairs - www.anzacportal.dva.gov.au
- National Archives of Australia - www.naa.gov.au
- National Library of Australia - www.trove.nla.gov.au
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