Peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations

Australians have served in peacekeeping missions every year since 1947. The first Australian peacekeepers were deployed to the Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia). Their intense experience of observing the front between Netherlander troops and East Indian republicans foreshadowed the experiences of generations of Australians to come. We commemorate the contribution made in the service of peace by Australian military, police and civilian peacekeepers.

Role of peacekeepers


In 1947, the first Australian peacekeepers served as military observers to a UN operation in the Netherlands East Indies (present day Indonesia).


Peacekeepers are selected as needs arise: they can be Australian Defence Force personnel from any of our services, or public servants, state or federal police workers, aid workers, scientific or other specialists. Many civilians from Australia have served in peacekeeping roles as UN volunteers. Peacekeeping has evolved over time and requires management of complex and multi-dimensional issues. Peacekeepers usually serve in countries destroyed by war.


Duties of peacekeepers might include:


  • operations as military observers to give logistical support and monitor ceasefire violations
  • standing between hostile armies
  • treating casualties
  • landmine clearance operations (and teaching locals to do it)
  • providing communications, medical and movement control teams
  • supporting democratic elections
  • providing policing support functions
  • helping to deliver or make possible humanitarian aid


For many Australians who serve, peacekeeping can be a personally rewarding experience, offering:


  • extensive training before deployment
  • support during the operation
  • development of skills, experience and career
  • a rewarding experience of helping others and witnessing positive outcomes for unstable or disadvantaged regions


However, peacekeeping missions often occur in dangerous situations. While some peacekeepers are armed and others unarmed, all peacekeepers are limited in the amount of force that they can use. At times, this places peacekeepers in challenging and dangerous situations.


Sometimes peacekeepers work alone or in small groups. More recently, Australia has committed large forces to peacekeeping missions in Africa, Asia and the Pacific region.


Warrant Officer Paul Copeland, a veteran peacekeeper of Cambodia and Sinai missions, summarised the different experiences of service men and women in wartime and peacekeeping missions:


in a war it's a simple case of contacting an identified enemy and trying to win a battle. Whereas when it comes to peacekeeping you're constrained to a large degree by UN (United Nations) mandates, the charters, the ROEs (rules of engagement) and what you can and can't do


Our service men and women have helped establish Australia’s reputation as a willing, experienced and generous contributor to regional and global peace and security.


Australians as peacekeepers


Since 1947, members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) have been involved in UN and other multinational peacekeeping operations. Most recently, thousands of troops have been deployed in anti-terrorism campaigns in Afghanistan, the Middle East and South West Africa. Peacekeeping locations that involved Australian military personnel include:


  • Indonesia 1947 to 1951
  • Kashmir 1950 to 1985
  • Korea 1953 to now
  • Israel (under Operation Paladin) 1956 to now
  • Congo 1960 to 1961
  • West New Guinea 1962 to 1963
  • Yemen 1963
  • Cyprus 1964 to now (including Australian police personnel)
  • India-Pakistan Border 1965 to 1966
  • Sinai (under Operation Mazurka) 1976 to 1979, 1982 to 1986 and 1993 to now
  • Israel-Syria Border 1974
  • Lebanon 1978
  • Zimbabwe 1979 to 1980
  • Uganda 1982 to 1984
  • Iran 1988 to 1990
  • Thailand-Cambodia Border 1989 to 1993
  • Namibia 1989 to 1990 (under UNTAG)
  • Afghanistan 1989 to 1993
  • Iraqi Kurdistan 1991(under Operation Habitat)
  • Iraq 1991 to 1999
  • Western Sahara 1991 to 1994
  • Cambodia 1991 to 1993 (under UNTAC)
  • Somalia 1992 to 1995 (under Operation Solace)
  • Yugoslavia 1992
  • Rwanda 1994 to 1995
  • Mozambique 1994
  • Bougainville 1994 and 1997 to 2003
  • Haiti 1994 to 1995
  • Guatemala 1997
  • Yugoslavia 1997 to now
  • Kosovo 1999 to now
  • East Timor 1999 to 2013 (under INTERFET, UNTAET, UNMISET, Operation Tower and Operation Astute)
  • Solomon Islands 2000 to 2013 (under RAMSI)
  • Ethiopia and Eritrea 2000 to now
  • Sierra Leone 2000 to 2003
  • Sudan 2005 to now (under Operation Azure)
  • Darfur 2007 to now (under Operation Hedgerow)



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