Australian military involvement in peacekeeping

Australian military involvement in peacekeeping operations has been diverse, and included participation in both United Nations sponsored missions, as well as those as part of ad hoc coalitions. Indeed, Australians have been involved in more conflicts as peacekeepers than as belligerents; however, according to Peter Londey "in comparative international terms, Australia has only been a moderately energetic peacekeeper."[1] To be sure even though Australia has had peacekeepers in the field continuously for 60 years – the first occasion being in Indonesia in 1947, when Australians were among the very first group of UN military observers – its commitments have generally been limited, consisting of small numbers of high-level and technical support troops (e.g. signals, engineers or medical units) or observers and police. David Horner has noted that the pattern changed with the deployment of 600 engineers to Namibia in 1989–90 as the Australian contribution to UNTAG.[2] From the mid-1990s, Australia has been involved in a series of high-profile operations, deploying significantly large units of combat troops in support of a number of missions including those in Cambodia, Rwanda, Somalia and later in East Timor. Australia has been involved in close to 100 separate missions, involving more than 30,000 personnel and 10 Australians have died during these operations.[3]

Australian Peacekeeping
Australian peacekeeping deployments since 1945


East timor independence un2
Australian soldiers in a M-113 armoured personnel carrier during a peacekeeping deployment to East Timor in 2002

Australian involvement in international peacekeeping began in 1947 when a small contingent, consisting of just four officers—two Army, one Navy and one Air Force—were deployed to the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia) in September of that year, being deployed as military observers under the auspicies of the United Nations Good Offices Commission, during the Indonesian National Revolution. A total of 45 Australians were eventually deployed as part of this commitment, which ended in 1951.[4] After that first operation, Australia's involvement in peacekeeping expanded slowly. Between 1950 and 1989, these commitments, while numerous remained small-scale, consisting of the deployment of small numbers of troops in support roles. In 1989, however, this changed when Australia committed a sizeable engineer force to Namibia; after this, throughout the 1990s Australia made further contributions to peacekeeping operations in various places around the world including the Middle East, Cambodia, Somalia and Rwanda, and in many cases—for example in Somalia where an infantry battalion group was deployed—these deployments have consisted of sizeable numbers of combat troops. Between 1997 and 2003, military observers were sent to Bougainville as part of a peace monitoring mission. In 1999, Australia's involvement in peacekeeping reached a new level when it took the lead in deploying a force that peaked at around 6,000 personnel, to East Timor during that country's emergence as an independent nation, before handing over to a UN-led mission in 2000; further commitments to East Timor were also made throughout the following decade as episodes of unrest occurred.[5] Between 2003 and 2013, a total of 7,270 Australian personnel rotated through the Solomon Islands as part of Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands.[6] The early years of the 21st century also saw the deployment of thousands of personnel to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in warfighting roles.[7] In addition, smaller scale commitments were made to missions in Africa, including to places like Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Darfur.[8]

List of peacekeeping operations

Australians have been involved in the following peacekeeping operations:

Seven multinational operations have been commanded by Australians:

See also


  1. ^ Londey 2004, p. xxi.
  2. ^ Horner 2011.
  3. ^ "Australian War Memorial Official History of Peacekeeping, Humanitarian and Post-Cold War Operations". Archived from the original on 27 December 2008. Retrieved 4 January 2009.
  4. ^ King 2011, p. 399.
  5. ^ King 2011, pp. 400 & 403.
  6. ^ "Australia-led Combined Task Forces Concludes Role With RAMSI". Department of Defence Media Release. Archived from the original on 2013-09-08. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  7. ^ King 2011, p. 401–402.
  8. ^ King 2011, p. 403.
  9. ^ Department of Defence (2 December 2016). "Australian officer appointed to command international peacekeeping force" (Press release).
  10. ^ "MFO Force Commander: Major General Simon Stuart". MFO: The Multinational Force and Observers. Archived from the original on 14 March 2017. Retrieved 30 June 2017.


  • Horner, David (2011). Australia and the New World Order: From Peacekeeping to Peace Enforcement, 1988–1991. The Official History of Australian Peacekeeping, Humanitarian and Post-Cold War Operation. Volume II Cambridge University Press. Port Melbourne, Victoria. ISBN 9780521765879.
  • King, Jonathan (2011). Great Battles in Australian History. Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-74237-457-4.
  • Londey, Peter (2004). Other People's Wars: A History of Australian Peacekeeping. Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin.

Further reading

List of wars involving Australia

This is a chronological list of wars involving Australia since federation in 1901.

Dates indicate the years in which Australia was involved in the war.

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