National service to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda, Operation TAMAR

Running time
46 min 3 sec
Date made
Place made
Australian Peacekeeping Memorial, Anzac Parade Canberra, Australia

Transcript

Wing Commander David Brewer:

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Welcome to the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial on Anzac Parade. Canberra for the National Commemorative Service to mark the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda.

Operation TAMAR. I would also like to extend a welcome to the many Australians who may be watching this broadcast at home in cities and towns throughout Australia. I am Wing Commander David Brewer. And it is my great privilege to be your master of ceremonies for this morning's service.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, the Ngunnawal people, and pay my respects to elders past and present. And I extend this respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians present here today. I would also like to acknowledge the men and women of the Australian Defence Force and our veterans that are present today. We thank you for your service. I will now broadly acknowledge our official guests, His Excellency General the Honorable David Hurley AC DSC Retired Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia and Her Excellency Mrs Linda Hurley; Senator David Van representing the Honorable Darren Chester MP, Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel; the Honorable Shayne Neumann MP, Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Defence Personnel representing the Leader of the Federal Opposition; General Angus Campbell AO DSC, Chief of the Defence Force;

Vice Admiral David Johnston AO RAN, Vice Chief of the Defence Force;

Rear Admiral Mark Hammond AM RAN, Deputy Chief of Navy representing the Chief of Navy; Lieutenant General Rick Burr AO DSC MVO, Chief of Army; Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld AO DSC, Chief of Air Force; Commodore Justin Jones CSC RAN, representing Chief of Joint Operations; Lieutenant General John Fruen DSC AM; Mr Charles McHardie AM representing Ms Liz Cosson AM CSC Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs;

Mr Michael John Roux, Honorary Consul-General Republic of Rwanda in Australia; senior Representatives of the ex-Service Community Veterans; other distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen. I would now like to acknowledge our V.I.P.s for today's service, the veterans of Operation TAMAR and the family members of the veterans who are here with us today. If you are a veteran of Operation TAMAR, would you please stand?

Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, please be upstanding for the official commencement of the service with the mounting of the catafalque party.

[Mounting of the catafalque party]

Please be seated. I now invite Air Vice Marshal Tracy Smart AO, a veteran of Operation TAMAR, to deliver the Call to Remembrance.

Air Vice Marshal Tracy Smart AO:

Australia has a long and proud history of peacekeeping and peacemaking as commemorated in the memorial we stand before today. Like many of those present, I am very proud to say that I've had the privilege of wearing the blue beret, including as part of Australia's contribution to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda. When we deployed to Rwanda in the mid 1990's the country was recovering from one of the greatest atrocities of the 20th century, their terrible genocide. The Australians who deployed on the peacekeeping operation to this war ravaged country were witnesses to the aftermath of mass killings and scenes of unimaginable horror and brutality. Every day many of us put our lives on the line to assist in keeping the peace in this unfortunate place. From those on the advance party who bore witness to the direct aftermath of these atrocities, to those who deployed around the country to keep the peace and offer assistance, to those of us who provided much needed health care to the UN and the local people, to those who kept us safe and fed and cared for, and those who witnessed the horrific events at Kibeho Internally Displaced Persons Camp. We all did australia and the Australian Defence Force proud. For those of us in the medical company, one of our biggest challenges, but also sometimes biggest pleasures, was looking after the children suffering from the aftermath of the genocide. We saved and positively influenced a lot of lives, but sometimes had to play God. Watching people, including children, die due to our limited capacity. People who would have lived in a first world country. The contributions, professionalism and bravery of both contingents and the respect and admiration of not only Australia, but governments and individuals throughout the world. However, the cost was significant. Today we remember these sacrifices and thank all for their service and sacrifice and also that of their families. We also remember that this service and sacrifice was not in vain. Rwanda has emerged from its darkest hours to become one of Africa's most successful countries and one of this year's top world travel destinations. Not only did we have a positive impact on the country, but also at the individual level. One Australian peacekeeper made all the difference to young Theogene Ngamije, who at the time was separated from his parents in the Kibeho Internally Displaced Persons Camp. Now Private Ngamije, who proudly serves in the Australian Army and is with us today, recalls; 'no day was was easy, it was hard. I was always scared, hungry and intimidated on a good day, a tall Australian soldier took a knee and offered me a piece of biscuit and the Australian flag patch from his uniform. I pray that someday I get to change someone else's life.' We need only to hear these words to realise the profound impact of our work in the midst of this most terrible of human tragedies. It's the hand you hold, the life you save, the difference you make. In the short term and at the human level, we saved lives and prevented more tragedy. In the long term, we helped the country to get back on its feet. Today, we honor those who endured months of very difficult service in Rwanda and offer our thanks for the lifesaving work they performed. We also acknowledge the profound contribution Australian contingents 1 and 2 made to the country of Rwanda during their deployment.

Wing Commander David Brewer:

Thank you.

Air Vice-Marshal Smart. The commemorative address today will be delivered by His Excellency, the Governor-General.

His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd):

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, a great privilege for Linda and I to join you this morning as we commemorate, reflect, remember Operation TAMAR and Service in Rwanda 25 years ago. I join in with David in acknowledging the Ngunnawal people as the traditional owners of this land and I pay my respects to them and thank them for looking after this beautiful part of our country for generation after generation. Could I also acknowledge Senator Van, the Honorable Shayne Neumann, the Chief of Defence Force Angus Campbell, and other senior defence representatives. Mr. Michael Roux, the Honorary Consul-General for Rwanda. Ladies and gentlemen, and again, in particular, to our veterans and their families who served in Rwanda 25 years ago.

In the early 90's we in the Australian Defence Force, along with the United Nations, were going through a tumultuous time. For the UN, it was branching into a form of peacekeeping that it hadn't experienced in previous generations. More interventionist, more direct and more inclined to use a mandate under Chapter 7 to allow forces to use force. In Australia we were coming out of a long period without deployments. A lot of home training and we were rediscovering what it meant to serve overseas, to deploy a force overseas and sustain it. And in a different form, not in an alliance, but under a UN banner. This of course, was an operation that occurred in my youth and my younger serving days. The contingents represented here today were commanded by my friends, my colleagues, people I'd serve with, trained with, grew up with. And I served in my later time in the military alongside soldiers and NCOs, who had served in Rwanda, and I was privileged to serve beside them. Today we are here to commemorate and acknowledge service in the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda, and number two, to reflect on that service.

25 years ago, last August, the first of 700 Australian peacekeepers, medical personnel, logistic troops, infantry and supporting elements deployed to Rwanda, a country gripped by genocidal violence. It was a place of ever present danger. And although estimates vary, it is fair to say that approximately one million Rwandans were killed during this crisis. And the evidence of the mercilessness of the killing was everywhere, in shallow mass graves and in debris-strewn, bloodstained churches and schools, places where people had vainly sought refuge. Millions were homeless, made refugees and displaced in their own country, or through having to seek safety outside Rwanda's borders. The Australian contingents primary responsibility was to provide medical care to their fellow United Nations peacekeepers. But as Australians do, whenever they venture off our shores, or indeed more recently on our shores, they look at a problem and they solve the problem in front of them. And the requirement to help treat, look after and if they could protect Rwandan civilians soon became a very important concern, as one member of the Australian medical team said;'we saw a lot of bullet injuries, mine and grenade injuries, and many of those injured and ill were orphans, wounded in the genocide, suffering from illness or the victims of accidents'. One veteran remainders remembers Rwanda as a country where there is an entire generation of children, who don't have parents, who have no living relatives left. A desolate place.

When we reflect on the often unsung work of Australian peacekeepers, certain images come to mind. Australians in the streets of Dili, patrolling the streets of a Somali village, or the historic Angkor Wat in Cambodia. All operations of that time, but few images are as well- known as those as the blue-helmeted Australian soldiers caring for the displaced and the wounded at Kibeho. Over 2000 people were killed at Kibeho.

For many reason, the UN mandate rules of engagement, neither the Australians nor the Zambian infantrymen in location it Kibeho could stop the killing. But in this intensely dangerous environment, they had to make life and death decisions and to exercise a cool judgment under fire. They risked their lives to help rescue survivors. Thankfully, no Australian lives were lost on this deployment, but many who served in Rwanda have been deeply affected by their experience since their return. Today, remember the service and the sacrifice of all those who served on Operation TAMAR and the price that many have paid for their courage and selfless dedication to the caring of others. We also acknowledge the families who shared in their experiences and for many of the difficult days that followed their return. It is now a quarter of a century since our service men and women deployed to Rwanda, but as evidenced here today, the memory of their service has not diminished.

We thank them for their dedication, professionalism, selflessness and compassion.

Op TAMAR is an important example of the difficulties faced by peacekeepers in a very ambiguous situation. It is fitting that the men and women of the Australian Service Contingents 1 and 2 have been recognised with the award of the Meritorious Unit Citation. I congratulate you for that and for your sustained outstanding service in war-like operations over the period July '94 to March '96. As a former serviceman and as Governor-General, it was a privilege for me to sign-off on that citation last year. You and your families are a credit to the Australian Defence Force and to our country. On behalf of all Australians, I thank you for what you have done for us, the United Nations and for Rwanda.

Wing Commander David Brewer:

Thank you.

Thank you, your Excellency. I now invite His Excellency the Governor-General to present the Meritorious Unit Citation Warrants.

To Rear Admiral Mark Hammond AM RAN on behalf of the Chief of the Royal Australian Navy, Lieutenant General Rick Burr AO DSC MVO Chief of the Australian Army, and Air Marshal Mel HupfeId AO DSC Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force.

Australian Service Contingents 1 and 2 have been awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation in recognition for sustained outstanding service in warlike operations, for sustained outstanding service as part of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda on Operation TAMAR over the period July 1994 to March 1996.

Ladies and gentlemen, please acknowledge our service men and women from Operation TAMAR.

I now invite Captain Amanda Garlick, a nursing officer in the intensive care unit during Operation TAMAR to deliver a reading.

Captain Amanda Garlick:

Rwanda prior to deploying in 1994, many of us would have struggled to identify this landlocked country in Central Africa on the world map. Deployment to Operation TAMAR quickly changed this. As a unit we were titled a Medical Support Force. However, this belies the diverse skill skillsets represented across the contingents. Whilst the medical company was directly tasked with health care delivery, headquarters staff, engineers, infantry and armored core personnel were tasked with logistics, supply and force protection. However, such was the scale of the tragedy before us, virtually all personnel were called upon to administer some form of first aid during their deployment. It was indeed a team effort reliant on the sum of its parts. This deployment, through representatives from all services, with few of us having deployment experience and little preparation for what we were to encounter. The challenges were many, but were met with a positive approach, a commitment to try and succeed and often with a lot of ingenuity to find out what worked best. Integration of all team members did take some time, but we were united by a common goal. The care and protection we provided gave hope to a community in disarray and the outreach teaching support provided to the Rwandan health care teams by spending time with them on the Kigali Central Hospital wards helped to enhance their nursing practices. Our ability to place primary health teams in other areas of the country helped support regional centers and the efforts to reestablish the health infrastructure nationally. All of this was achieved against a backdrop of uncertainty with ongoing political unrest. The upheaval of the social structure and a country still experienced outbreaks of violence with members of your UNAMIR there to bear witness. Memories of Rwanda definitely encompass the people we deployed with, the local community we provided care for, the natural beauty of this country and of course, the opportunity to see the mountain gorillas. For all of us the contribution we made in assisting the Rwandan people supported their efforts to commence rebuilding their country. Rwanda is a nation now that is one of stability, economic growth and improved health and education, leading the way for other African nations.

Wing Commander David Brewer:

Thank you, Captain Garlick.

I now invite Chaplain Maumau Monu of the Australian Army to lead us in a prayer of commemoration.

Chaplain Maumau Monu:

Let us pray, ever loving an almighty God would come before you today in this commemoration to offer our heartfelt thanks and gratitude for your love and mercies as we remember those that served with courage and honor in the defence of our nation. We pray especially for those that have served in the Operation TAMAR for their courage and unwavering commitment in every effort to bring peace to a torn nation. We pray for continual healing upon the life of those that are being scarred from this deployment and the atrocity committed against our own human race. As we pause, reflect and remember the sacrifice made by our serving men and women in this operation and all operations since. May their dauntless courage in defence of our country and their interest continue to be a reminder for us and our future generations of the cost of our freedom and of all the benefits we enjoy and any incentive to sacrificial service for all people. We pray for all our serving members past and present, together with their families. Bless, guide, uphold and protect them, we pray. This we ask in the name of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

Wing Commander David Brewer:

Thank you, Chaplain. wreaths will now be laid by official representatives. The first wreath will be laid by His Excellency the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia and Her Excellency, Mrs Linda Hurley, on behalf of the people of Australia.

The next wreath will be laid by Senator David Van, representing the Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister for Defense Personnel and the Honorable Shayne Neumann MP Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister for Defense Personnel representing the Federal Opposition.

The next wreaths will be laid on behalf of Australian Service Contingent 1 and Australian Service Contingent 2 by Brigadier Wayne Ramsey AM CSC former Commander of Australian Service Contingent 1, and Professor Peter Warfe CSC former Commander of Australia Service Contingent 2.

The next wreath will be laid on behalf of the men and women of the Australian Defence Force by General Angus Campbell AO DSC Chief of the Australian Defence Force.

The next wreaths will be like by Rear Admiral Mike Hammond AM RAN representing the Chief of the Royal Australian Navy.

Lieutenant General Rick Burr AO DSC Chief of Army and Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld AO DSC Chief of Air Force.

The next wreath will be layed on behalf of the Consulate of the Republic of Rwanda in Australia by Mr Michael John Roux Honorary Consul-General Republic of Rwanda in Australia.

The next wreaths will be laid by Lieutenant Commander David Manolas on behalf of the Naval Association of Australia.

Brigadier Pat MacIntosh AM CSC former Commanding Officer of Australian Medical Support Force, Australian Service Contingent 1 on behalf of the Royal Australian Regiment Corporation and Wing Commander Lance Halvorson MBE on behalf of the Air Force Association.

The next wreaths will be laid by Mr Greg Melick on behalf of the Returned Services League of Australia, Mrs Judy Mack on behalf of Legacy Australia Incorporated,

Ms Pat McCabe OAM on behalf of the Australian Federation of Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Ex-Service Men and Women, and Mrs Meg Green AM on behalf of War Widows Guild of Australia.

The final wreaths this morning will be laid on behalf of all peacekeeping veterans of Australia by Mr Paul Copeland OAM on behalf of Australian Peacekeeping Service Alliance and Lieutenant Colonel Ian Lindgren on behalf of the Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans Association.

It is now time to reflect and to remember all those who have served and died in war. Please stand for The Ode, which will be followed by the Last Post, one minute of silence and then Rouse. The Ode will be recited by Warrant Officer Class One Brent Doyle OAM the Regimental Sergeant Major of Training and Doctrine and a former Lance Corporal in the Combat Engineer Section during Operation TAMAR.

Warrant Officer Class One Brent Doyle OAM:

They went with songs to the battle, they were young, straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted, they fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning.
We will remember them.
Lest we forget.

Wing Commander David Brewer:

Please remain standing for the Australian National Anthem, final blessing and the dismounting of the catafalque party.

[Australian National Anthem]

I now invite Chaplain Monu to offer a final blessing.

Chaplain Maumau Monu:

Go forth into the world in peace. Be of good courage. Hold fast that which is good, render to no one evil for evil. Strengthen the faint hearted, support of the weak, help the affliction, honor everyone, love and save the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit and the blessing of God Almighty. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Be with you and remain with you always now and ever more. Amen.

Wing Commander David Brewer:

Thank you, Chaplain Monu. We began our service this morning with the mounting of the catafalque party and now the catafalque party will be dismounted.

[Catafalque party dismounting]

Ladies and gentlemen, please be seated.

That concludes the official national commemorative service to mark the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda Operation TAMAR. To our special guest today, the veterans of Operation TAMAR and their families. Thank you for being with us for this morning's service. You honor us by your presence. You are wonderful representatives of all those who served with you. And we are grateful for your service and sacrifice. Ladies and gentlemen, please show your appreciation. Thank you and good morning.