Australia and Peacekeeping

in Journal of International Peacekeeping
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This article traces the history of Australian peacekeeping since its beginnings in September 1947. It shows that, while there have always been Australian peacekeepers in the field since 1947, the level of commitment in different periods has varied greatly. The article sets out to explain this phenomenon, chiefly in political terms. It argues that Australia’s early involvement in the invention of peacekeeping owed much to External Affairs Minister H.V. Evatt’s interest in multilateralism, but that under the subsequent conservative Menzies government a new focus on alliance politics produced mixed results in terms of peacekeeping commitments. By contrast, in the 1970s and early 1980s, for different reasons Prime Ministers Whitlam and Fraser pursued policies which raised Australia’s peacekeeping profile. After a lull in the early years of the Hawke Labor government, the arrival of internationalist Gareth Evans as Foreign Minister signalled a period of intense peacekeeping activity by Australia. For different, regionally-focused reasons, Australia was again active in peacekeeping in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In recent years, however, Australia’s heavy commitment to Middle East wars has reduced its peacekeeping contribution once again to a low level.




Londey, ‘Inventing Peacekeeping’, pp. 17–18. On the incompatibility of the ideals, cf. Coral Bell’s comments at C. Bell (ed.), The United Nations and Crisis Management: Six Studies (Canberra: Australian National University, 1994), pp. 3–6. On H.V. Evatt’s rather creative response to the problem in the Indonesian case, see Londey, Other People’s Wars, p. 16.


 On all this, see Margaret George, Australia and the Indonesian Revolution (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1980). For a useful succinct account, see Peter Dennis, ‘Australia and Indonesia: the Early Years’, in David Lowe (ed.), Australia and the End of Empires (Geelong: Deakin University Press, 1996), pp. 43–52.


Dennis, ‘Australia and Indonesia: the Early Years’, p. 51.


Londey, ‘Inventing Peacekeeping’, pp. 14–16.


 See Daniel Mandel, H.V. Evatt and the Establishment of Israel: the Undercover Zionist (London: Frank Cass, 2004).


Menzies to McBride, 29 November 1951, NAA: A5954, 2277/4.


Londey, Other People’s Wars, pp. 38–57; Pauline Dawson, The Peacekeepers of Kashmir: the un Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (London and New York: Hurst and Company/St Martin’s Press), 1994.


For a brief account, Londey, Other People’s Wars, pp. 67–70. For a full account of Menzies’ role, see W.J. Hudson, Blind Loyalty: Australia and the Suez Crisis, 1956. (Carlton: Melbourne University Press, 1989).


Londey, Other People’s Wars, pp. 6, 97–100, 107–108.


Londey, Other People’s Wars, pp. 100–106.


Londey, Other People’s Wars, 126–132.


Londey, Other People’s Wars, pp. 108–114. Appropriately, given the presence of a joint Australian–New Zealand unit, Israel completed the handover of the Sinai and the mfo became fully operational on 25 April, Anzac Day.


Londey, Other People’s Wars, pp. 92–93, 116–120; Horner, Australia and the ‘New World Order’, pp. 36–39.


Horner, Australia and the ‘New World Order’, pp. 144–175; on the ‘alibi’ (Hayden’s word), see p. 174.


Gareth Evans, Cooperating for Peace: the Global Agenda for the 1990s and beyond (Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1993). The book is dedicated to the memory of H.V. Evatt. Canberra gossip liked to describe it as a lengthy job application for the position of Secretary-General, but it was a serious contribution to the subject at a time when, perhaps more so than today, the subject was being taken seriously. The empirical basis of Cooperating for peace was a series of case studies, mostly by members of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which were later published in Kevin Clements and Robin Ward (eds.), Building International Community: Cooperating for Peace Case Studies (Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1994).


Horner, Australia and the ‘New World Order’, p. 58.


Horner, Australia and the ‘New World Order’, pp. 53–143.


Horner, Australia and the ‘New World Order’, pp. 206–237.


Horner and Connor, The Good International Citizen, pp. 395–426.


Horner and Connor, The Good International Citizen, pp. 427–500, 518–525.


Horner and Connor, The Good International Citizen, pp. 267–330.


Horner and Connor, The Good International Citizen, pp. 333–391.


The best account is Bob Breen, A Little bit of Hope: Australian Force – Somalia (Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1998).


On Australians in Rwanda. Londey, Other People’s Wars, pp. 194–213; Kevin O’Halloran, Rwanda: Unamir 1994/95 (Canberra: Army History Unit, 2012). On Gittoes’ Rwanda work, G. Fry, George Gittoes (North Ryde: Craftsman House, 1998); on his earlier work with peacekeepers, D. Hart, The Realism of Peace: George Gittoes (Darwin: Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, 1995). Twenty years later, Gittoes is still trying to find ways to express in art what he saw at Kibeho: cf. Christiana Spens, ‘Community, War and the Role of Art: an Interview with George Gittoes’, Studio International, 2 September 2013 (, accessed 7.7.14).


Londey, Other People’s Wars, pp. 143–145 (Mozambique, Eritrea and Sierra Leone), 211–213 (Haiti and Guatemala); Horner and Connor, The Good International Citizen, pp. 225–263 (de-mining in Cambodia), 371–391 (former Yugoslavia).


Londey, Other People’s Wars, pp. 214–225; Reuben Bowd, Doves over the Pacific: in Pursuit of Peace and Stability in Bougainville (Loftus, nsw: Australian Military History Publications, 2007). There had been an earlier, small-scale peacekeeping effort, the South Pacific Peace–Keeping Force (sppkf), facilitating and protecting an abortive peace conference in 1994: see Bob Breen, Giving Peace a Chance: Operation Lagoon, Bougainville, 1994: a Case of Military Action and Diplomacy (Canberra: Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, anu, 2001).


Londey, Other People’s Wars, pp. 225–229; Fry and Kabutalauka, Intervention and State-building in the Pacific; Sinclair Dinnen and Stewart Firth (eds.), Politics and State Building in Solomon Islands (Canberra: anu E-Press and Asia Pacific Press, 2008).


 See my remarks at Londey, ‘The Invention of Peacekeeping’, pp. 12–13.


James Brown, Anzac’s Long Shadow: the Cost of Our National Obsession (Collingwood, Vic.: Redback, 2014), p. 4.


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