A new memorial honouring Australia’s international peacekeeping operations has been officially opened in Canberra this morning.
Volunteers, veterans and supporters began work to create the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial on Anzac Parade 12 years ago.
The memorial features two large black polished concrete monoliths separated by a passageway, as well as a courtyard of reflection.
“As you move through the memorial monoliths through a passageway of light, the idea is the peacekeepers are keeping apart the warring forces and providing the hope,” planning committee chairman Major General Tim Ford said.
The courtyard contains statements in bronze listing Australia’s peacekeeping missions, as well as bronze descriptions of the characteristics of peacekeepers.
The memorial honours the service and sacrifice of more than 80,000 military, police and civilian peacekeepers who served in 62 missions over the past 70 years.
“Many have been injured and traumatised by what they have had to put up with … in very difficult and dangerous situations,” Major General Ford said.
“We are very much wanting to recognise, not just the peacekeepers, but the families and their supporters.”
Major General Ford said securing $4 million to complete the major sculpture proved the greatest challenge.
“The Australian community really didn’t recognise and understand the great work that was being done by peacekeepers around the world,” he said.
“We have actually been in many more conflicts as peacekeepers than we have actually as combatants.
“It is an important message for the Australian community to understand that international peace and security is not just about fighting the last minute and then having to decide whether you are going to commit armed forces.”
In the service of peace
In his dedication of the new Australian Peacekeeping Memorial, Governor-General Peter Cosgrove praised peacekeepers’ sacrifice, humanity and compassion in protecting the vulnerable and the dispossessed.
“It seems part of the human condition to want it with every fibre of our being, but never to attain perfect peace,” he said.
“In their blue berets, peacekeepers are a symbol of hope. They save lives and change lives, they restore order and bring security and stability.
“Peacekeepers do all this not in the name of conquest or self aggrandisement, nor in the name of parochial national self-interest. They do it, in the name of compassion and humanity. In the name of what is right.”
‘Thin blue line between two belligerent parties’
Lieutenant Colonel Deborah Warren-Smith said while today’s recognition for peacekeepers was long overdue, the greatest reward and satisfaction came from contributing to operations.
“As a peacekeeper you are there to be the thin blue line sometimes between the two belligerent parties,” she said.
“You may be there to enact and observe and report on.
“It may be a truce agreement or a disengagement agreement, which is what I was doing when I was deployed with the United Nations.”
Lieutenant Colonel Warren-Smith served un-armed as a military observer in Israel, Lebanon and Syria.
“It is a recognition by Australia for 70 years of continuous peacekeeping, which is a really big contribution to the humanitarian side of what we are trying to achieve as peacekeepers,” she said.