The service and sacrifice of Australia’s Rwanda peacekeeping veterans from Operation Tamar was remembered this morning at a national commemorative service at the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial on Anzac Parade in Canberra.
CAPTION: General David Hurley, Governor-General, of Australia, addresses the congregation at the National Commemorative Service for the 25th anniversary of the UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda, at the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial, Canberra. Photo by Lauren Larking.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester – who didn’t attend the service – said it was crucial to honour the efforts of Australian Defence Force personnel in bringing peace to a country overrun with conflict.
“From 1994 to 1996 it is estimated that up to 800,000 people were killed in Rwanda — the magnitude of the violence and killings perpetrated on largely innocent civilians gained worldwide attention and condemnation,” Mr Chester said.
“The men and women who served in Rwanda were faced with unimaginable conditions and not even their advanced training and prior deployments could prepare them for what they encountered.
“In the face of these conditions, our ADF personnel went above and beyond in their duties.
“Thank you for your service to our nation and for helping a country in need.”
The two Australian contingents worked in the capital, Kigali and travelled throughout the country, providing help to civilians from July 1994 to March 1996.
At this morning’s service, Governor-General David Hurley presented the Meritorious Unit Citation Warrant to each Service Chief, or their representatives, who accepted on behalf of their respective service personnel who deployed on the operation.
Senator for Victoria, David Van, representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs acknowledged the role of all Australian peacekeepers who served in Rwanda.
“All three services were represented during Operation Tamar, and Australian men and women gained great international respect and admiration for their compassion, professionalism and humanity in undertaking the peacekeeping operation,” Senator Van said.
“Today’s service is an opportunity to honour the service of those involved in Operation Tamar in support of the United Nations’ peacekeeping efforts and I look forward to meeting many of those who took part and personally thanking them.
“Today is also an opportunity to reflect on all those Australians who have served in peacekeeping operations since 1947 with the aim of making the world a safer and more peaceful place.”
Following the commemorative service, a reception was held in Anzac Hall at the Australian War Memorial, where a number of Operation Tamar veterans were presented with their individual Meritorious Unit Citation insignia.
“For the some 700 ADF personnel who served in Operation Tamar, the Meritorious Unit Citation is a worthy tribute in recognition of what they were able to achieve in Rwanda,” Senator Van said.
“Australia will not forget your efforts and I congratulate you on being awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation as deserved recognition.”