Peacekeepers a priority: Nelson
Incoming War Memorial boss Brendan Nelson. Photo: Andrew Quilty
Incoming War Memorial boss Brendan Nelson is promising to walk along the Roll of Honour and read the peacekeepers' Remembrance Book on his first day in the job.
He will make it a high priority to meet Sarah McCarthy and Avril Clark, who have unsuccessfully campaigned for peacekeepers to be included on the Roll of Honour.
''The life and sacrifice of every one of those men and women, killed in war and in the pursuit of peace, is the heart of the responsibilities I am privileged to undertake,'' Dr Nelson said. The former defence minister in the Howard government and Liberal leader is serving as Australia's special representative to the World Health Organisation and NATO, and ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union. He will take up the position at the War Memorial on December 17.
Last week, the memorial's council rejected a petition signed by 17,800 people calling for peacekeepers who died on active duty to be remembered alongside other soldiers killed in action.
The online petition had been jointly presented by Ms McCarthy, from Canberra, whose father, Captain Peter McCarthy, was killed in Lebanon in 1988, and Ms Clark, from Perth, whose son, Private Jamie Clark, died in the Solomon Islands in 2005.
Because they were deployed on peacekeeping missions when they were killed, their names are recorded separately to those who died in what the Department of Defence classifies as ''warlike service''.
The petition had called for the names of 48 Australians killed in post-World War II peacekeeping and humanitarian operations to appear on the Roll of Honour.
Had it been accepted, their names would have been included among the 100,000-plus Australians killed in wars and conflicts.
But the council unanimously decided to retain the status quo, meaning the peacekeepers' names would stay listed separately in a Remembrance Book.
Ms McCarthy, whose father died when his vehicle hit a landmine, has vowed to keep up the fight for him to be properly honoured.
Dr Nelson was guarded in his comments before formally taking up his post, while referring specifically to the role of peacekeepers.
''The council has clearly given the appropriate recognition of Australians who have lost their lives whilst deployed as peacekeepers, sensitive and careful consideration,'' he said from Brussels.
''In announcing its unanimous decision, it has also undertaken to continue to consult with those who have a stake in the Roll of Honour and to further consider their opinions.
''I will do my utmost to assist the council in this and in doing so, help find a way to bring meaning and recognition to those men and women who place their lives in danger for us, our nation and values as peacekeepers.
''In doing so, an important priority will be to meet Sarah McCarthy and Avril Clark and the advocates of their cause.
''I will walk along the Roll of Honour on my first day at the War Memorial and read the peacekeepers' Book of Remembrance.''
One challenge facing Dr Nelson is to meet the tight deadlines to revamp the memorial's World War I galleries in time for the centenary of Anzac.
A separate campaign is being run to build a peacekeepers' memorial on Anzac Parade near the War Memorial.