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Thursday 17 Aug 2017 | 13:40 | SYDNEY
Thursday 17 Aug 2017 | 13:40 | SYDNEY

A gratifying moment for peacekeepers

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11 March 2013 12:02

Geraldine Doogue is patron of the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial Project and presenter of ABC RN's 'Saturday Extra'. Geraldine wrote a three-part Interpreter series on Australian peacekeeping. 

Last Wednesday, in the midst of a busy March week of tumultuous political news, came one delightful policy shift: the decision by the Australian War Memorial to allow the names of peacekeepers killed on active service but on 'non-warlike operations' to be added to the roll of honour of our war dead. For this we may thank a concerted campaign by peacekeeping veterans and their wives, a petition signed by more than 36,000 people and the December arrival of a former Defence Minister to lead the Memorial, Dr Brendan Nelson.

Despite the reported opposition of veterans and the chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force, all represented on the Memorial's Council, it seems Dr Nelson had his own views about the justice of acknowledging people who had served Australia to establish peace after hostilities, a venerable 65-year-long tradition.

Forty-eight peacekeepers have died in service. Press reports suggest the key influence on the policy change sprang from the numbers already on the roll of honour who did not die directly from combat, rather from disease and accidents. So distinguishing between the nature of deaths while in uniform began to seem unsupportable. And the initial practice of storing the peacekeepers' names in a locked glass cabinet, then moving them closer to the official honour role (but not fully there) came to be seen as ungracious, at best. 

For me, the civilian representative on a committee seeking to build a peace-keepers' memorial along Anzac Avenue, it was indeed a very gratifying development. Next stop the memorial, so that this marvellous Australian commitment to peace can be properly honoured.

Photo by Flickr user Alex '77.

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