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Australian Defence College

Peace Operations Training Centre

Australians in Peace Operations

On 31 July 1947, Australia was the first UN member state to invoke Chapter VII of the UN Charter as the basis for the referral of a situation to, and action by, the UN Security Council. That situation was the conflict in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). Australia’s decision was ground-breaking – at Indonesia's request, Australia represented against the Netherlands (the colonial power), and urged the Security Council to intercede in the conflict. The resolution adopted was the Council’s first exercise of its authority under Chapter VII of the Charter to respond to a threat to international peace and security. The UN Good Offices Mission subsequently deployed to Indonesia to monitor the ceasefire and oversee mediation efforts was the first of its kind. The Australian personnel in that mission were deployed on 14 September 1947 and Australia considers them to have been the first ever UN Peacekeepers (though the UN does not consider this the first ‘peacekeeping’ mission). Their efforts made a crucial contribution to ending the conflict in Indonesia and securing international recognition for its independence.

In Australia, 14 September has become known as Peacekeeping Day. The UN, however, commemorates the International Day of UN Peacekeepers on 29 May marking the establishment of what it considers its first peacekeeping mission, UNTSO in 1948, for which Australia also provided, and still does provide, Peacekeepers.

Since that time, Australia has provided military and police personnel to more than 60 United Nations and other multilateral peace and security operations around the globe. In our own neighbourhood, Australia played a leading role in successful regional missions in the Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and Bougainville. Australia was instrumental in the diplomacy that led to the Cambodian Peace Settlement , and made a major contribution to the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia, including sending the first military contingent and providing the Commander of the military component. Australia has also contributed to Commonwealth missions in Zimbabwe and Uganda and continues to deploy personnel to the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai (Egypt/Israel) and to International Stabilisation Force efforts in Afghanistan.

Australians are currently serving in UN peacekeeping missions in South Sudan (UNMISS), the Middle East (UNTSO) and Liberia (UNMIL). Australia continues to be one of the largest financial contributors to the UN peacekeeping budget.

Peace Operations Commanders

Eight multinational operations have been commanded by Australians:

  • Lieutenant General Robert Nimmo was Chief Military Observer in Kashmir with the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan, from 1950 to 1966.
  • Lieutenant General John Sanderson was Force Commander with the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia, 1992 to 1993.
  • Major General David Ferguson - Force Commander of the Multinational Force and Observers (in the Sinai) from 1994 to 1997.
  • Mr Richard Butler led the UN Special Commission (in Iraq) from 1997 to 1999.
  • Major General Timothy Ford was Head of Mission, UN Truce Supervision Organisation from 1998 to 2000, and Chief Military Advisor to UN DPKO 2001-2003.
  • Major General Peter Cosgrove commanded the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) from 1999 to 2000.
  • Major General Gordon – Head of Mission, UN Truce Supervision Organisation from 2006 to 2008.
  • Major General Simon Stuart – Force Commander of the Multinational Force and Observers (in the Sinai) 2017 - Current

Current Ops

Peacekeeping History