Over the last 70 years, 80,000 Australians have taken part in 62 peacekeeping missions. (Getty Images: Jewel Samad)
Do people really understand what the complex craft of peacekeeping means?
Do they know it’s not some sort of military-lite affair, but intelligent, imaginative work that often demands more nous than a straight war? And do we Australians grasp that we are pretty good at it?
The English novelist Thomas Hardy put it bluntly: “War makes rattling good history but peace is poor reading.”
These questions exercised me during a moving ceremony last week in Canberra. After a decade-long quest, a memorial to Australia’s 70 years of peacekeeping was finally unveiled on Anzac Avenue.
The man doing the honours, Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, entered our imagination due to his peacekeeping work in East Timor, where he was head of the United Nations’ INTERFET (you can’t escape acronyms in this arena).
I was the civilian patron of a committee set up in 2006 under the stewardship of Major General Tim Ford (retired), who wore the blue beret proudly during peacekeeping work in the Middle East in the 1980s.
The Peacekeepers Memorial was officially unveiled last week in Canberra. (ABC News: Siobhan Heanue)
Our goal was to raise money for a memorial to accompany all the others acknowledging Australian forces’ service, to ensure that the Australian men and women who have devoted themselves to the task of peacekeeping over the decades were not taken for granted.
The memorial venture’s…