On 29th May 2019, UNIC Canberra in partnership with Australian Federal Police, Australian Defence Force and United Nations Association of Australia commemorated the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers at the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial, Anzac Parade in Canberra.
Despite the inclement weather, the event was graced by a strong turn-out as guests came to pay their respects to the men and women who have served in the name of peace.
The service included the marching band bearing five different flags including the UN Flag. Following the National Anthem and lighting of the flame, the UN Secretary General’s message was read-out by UNIC Director Christopher Woodthorpe.
This year’s theme “Protecting Civilians, Protecting Peace” was chosen to mark 20 years since the Security Council first mandated a peacekeeping mission to protect civilians. The valour of Private Chancy Chitete, a Malawian, who died trying to save the life of a fellow peacekeeper, was recognised as the first recipient of Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage.
The key note address was delivered by Air Vice-Marshal Tracy Smart AM, Commander Joint Health, who served twice as a UN Peacekeeper. AVM Smart acknowledged the service and sacrifice of Australian peacekeepers for their contribution and professionalism and the important role of their families. She also spoke about her own deployment to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda as Senior RAAF Officer and the challenges and outcomes of that mission.
The poem “In honour of an Australian Peacekeeper” by 15-year-old Nicki Reggett, was recited, which embodied the message ‘not to forget veterans who sacrificed their livelihood’ and paid the ultimate price. This was followed by a prayer for the Nations and United Nations.
Floral wreaths were laid by representatives by the Dean of Diplomatic Corp; United Nations Information Centre; Australian Federal Police, Australian Defence Force and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; United Nations Association of Australia, United Nations and Overseas Policing Association of Australia and Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans’ Association.
A minute’s silence was observed in recognition of the 3800 UN Peacekeepers who had paid the ultimate sacrifice since the first mission in 1948.