Chapter Four - Outcome Performance > Outcome One: Command of Operations > Special Feature: Operation Spire
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montage of Defence imagery
Command of Operations | Special Feature

Operation Spire

ADF involvement in Timor-Leste began in 1999 when it led the United Nations-mandated mission to bring peace and stability to the troubled nation following the democratic decision of self-determination. Since then, an estimated 13,000 ADF members have served on peacekeeping operations in support of the peace process.

Although the ADF's contribution has taken many forms since the initial deployment of over 5,000 personnel, the cessation of Operation Spire on 24 June 2005 is a very significant change and marks the end of an era.

Timor-Leste celebrated its third anniversary of independent statehood on 20 May 2005.

The Australian flag is lowered over the forward operating base in Moleana. Those attending the ceremony included, from left to right, the Australian National Commander Timor-Leste Lieutenant Colonel Brian Cox, Minister of Agriculture Estanislao A. da Silva, Minister of Planning and Finance Dr Maria M. B. Boavida, Prime Minister of Timor-Leste Dr Mari Alkatiri, the Australian Defence Force representative, the then Major General Ken Gillespie and Australian Ambassador to Timor-Leste Ms Margaret Twomey.
The Australian flag is lowered over the forward operating base in Moleana. Those attending the ceremony included, from left to right, the Australian National Commander Timor-Leste Lieutenant Colonel Brian Cox, Minister of Agriculture Estanislao A. da Silva, Minister of Planning and Finance Dr Maria M. B. Boavida, Prime Minister of Timor-Leste Dr Mari Alkatiri, the Australian Defence Force representative, the then Major General Ken Gillespie and Australian Ambassador to Timor-Leste Ms Margaret Twomey.

A musician from the First Battalion Royal Australian Regiment band entertains the local Moleana children with claves (wooden percussion sticks) during an impromptu concert.
A musician from the First Battalion Royal Australian Regiment band entertains the local Moleana children with claves (wooden percussion sticks) during an impromptu concert.

As a result of progress made by the Timor-Leste Government, the United Nations Security Council ceased peacekeeping operations in 2005 and reduced its role to one of monitoring and reporting. This decision was not only a key milestone for the people of Timor-Leste but also proved to be a pivotal moment in the ADF's modern history. Significantly reducing the ADF's presence to around 30 personnel, the decision brought about the end of Operation Spire and the ADF's largest operational deployment since Vietnam.

Two Australian Army personnel prepare ammunition for disposal prior to the end of Operation Spire.
Two Australian Army personnel prepare ammunition for disposal prior to the end of Operation Spire.

The work of the contingent focused on the provision of engineering, transport, logistic and medical support. While much of this enabled other United Nations forces to perform their task more efficiently, the contingent also made meaningful contributions to the community through its Knowledge Skills Transfer Program. This program saw ADF personnel train Timorese people in many facets of building and construction while working on joint community projects such as the building of schools, halls and road works.

Among the many tangible contributions made by the ADF prior to the cessation of Operation Spire was the handover of its forward operating base in Moleana, now converted to an agricultural college for the Timorese people.

Despite the significant reduction in numbers, the ADF's commitment to Timor-Leste continues. Three members are deployed as part of the United Nations observation team of 12, known as Operation Chiron, and the ADF will provide ongoing support though the Defence Cooperation Program.

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