Sarah McCarthy and Avril Clarke. Photo: Graham Tidy
Australian War Memorial director Dr Brendan Nelson says the addition of the names of 48 Australian soldiers killed during non-warlike and peacekeeping operations to the institution's honour roll on Friday morning means the AWM is finally complete.
The former Howard Government defence minister, who lost two peacekeepers in a helicopter crash in the Solomon Islands on his watch in 2006, said he had not known fallen peacekeeprs were not listed on the roll until he took up his appointment as director late last year.
One of his first tasks was to persuade the AWM board to make the change to reflect the evolving role of the military in the post-WWII environment.
Dr Nelson's intervention was widely praised by the families of fallen peacekeepers who travelled to Canberra from all parts of Australia for Friday's unveiling.
More than 42,000 Australians signed an on-line petition supporting the reform as part of a campaign led by Perth's Avril Clark and Canberra's Sarah McCarthy in 2012.
The 48 names are on three new bronze panels on the Roll of Honour.
The March 6, 2013, decision to make the change marked a significant change of heart by the memorial council which had voted not to do this only four months before.
“Today is a milestone for the 48 families of those whose names are being added to the Roll of Honour, for the Australian War Memorial and for Australia,'' Dr Nelson said.
“In future, when the government of Australia declares an operation which is named by the Chief of Defence, and men and women of the Defence Forces are deployed, should anyone lose their life as a result of that operation, their name will be added to the Roll of Honour.''
Before the criteria for inclusion on the Roll of Honour were amended, members of the Australian Defence Force who had died during or as a result of non-warlike operational service – including peacekeeping and humanitarian operations – were commemorated in the Remembrance Book.
In addition to installing the new panels on the Roll of Honour, the panels for conflicts since 1945 have been reorganised in the eastern cloisters, to provide continuity from the Second World War through to Afghanistan. The new panels recognising the sacrifice of those killed in non-warlike operations have been placed on the end wall of the cloisters.
Friday's Last Post Ceremony will include the story of Captain Peter McCarthy, one of the 48 servicemen and women added to the bronze panels. Captain McCarthy, from Quirindi, NSW, died in 1988 when his jeep hit a landmine while he was serving with the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization in South Lebanon. He was the first Australian Army officer killed on overseas service since the end of the South Vietnam conflict. He was posthumously awarded the ANZAC Peace Prize, jointly with the Australian Defence Force Peacekeeping Commitment.
-with Jessica Hann