War Service for Rwanda Vets Rebuked
- Wednesday 26 October 2005

The 24th of October 2005 marked the 60th Anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations (24 October 1945). Since then, there have been a large number of UN Peacekeeping Operations, of which Australia was the world's first ever peacekeepers on 14th September 1947. The contribution by Australia, in particularly the Australian Defence Force (ADF), is a significant military milestone, in particular that the ADF and Police have contributed and served in the interests of world peace and security non-stop since 1947. This is a significant milestone that all Australians should be proud of.

One of these Operations, The United Nations Assistance Mission to Rwanda (UNAMIR), saw the deployment of a total of 638 Australian Defence Force personnel to what was known as the Australian Contingent, Medical Support Force to UNAMIR. They were witnesses and served in the horror of the infamous Kibeho Massacre in 1995, where over 8,000 men, women and children were killed by the Rwandan Patriotic Army.

The same year, the RSL awarded this contingent with the "ANZAC of the Year" Prize, for it's ANZAC spirit in adversity. Several of the Australian soldiers were awarded Active Service Bravery Medals for their bravery under fire.

The Minister of Defence, Senator Robert Hill, is not agreeing to change the Reclassification of the Service conditions for OP TAMAR, from "Non-Warlike Service" to "Warlike Service", due to the fact that "he does not want to change the decisions made by his predecessors in relation to these matters." This was confirmed by a delegation led by the National President of the Australian Peacekeeper & Peacemaker Veterans' Association (APPVA), who requested the reclassification in February 2005. Prior to this the APPVA has been lobbying since 2001 to have this anomaly corrected.

The Senator's predecessors of course was the Labor Party in 1994, when the determination was first made of Non-Operational Service for these men and women. That was based on intelligence and the Military Threat Assessment prior to the deployment. As we all now know, these men and women endured horrific scenes and incidents that have scarred them for life, far beyond the pre-deployment threat assessments predicted.

Let's not make this a secret dirty little war that is swept under the carpet.

The Channel 9 "Sunday Program" superbly portrayed the story of these deserving veterans, haunted by their experiences of service in Rwanda on Sunday 25 September 2005.

The service indeed satisfies the "Incurred Danger" test that is required for Operational Service under the Veterans' Entitlement Act 1986 (VEA).

These 638 veterans, who are men and women, mums and dads, sons and daughters, deserve better recognition from the Federal Government for their service in Rwanda.

Rwanda was one of the most appalling episodes in the world's history, yet the Federal Government last year (2004) approved reclassification of Operational Service for the Air Crews of the Berlin Airlift - 60 years ago; 2 Squadron in Malaysia - 35 years ago; Ubon Thailand - 40 years ago. So why is this Minister denying retrospective correction to these Young Veterans who are more than deserving of this recognition 10 years ago?

The Government has also commissioned a review into Active Service Medals for those ADF members who served with the United Nations Command Armistice Commission in Korea (UNCMAC) from 1953. Yet Younger Veterans continue to be ignored by the Federal Government for their appropriate recognition for their service since 1975 up to the current operations in the Solomon Islands, Middle East, Africa and East Timor.

For all recipients, it is now time to start contacting your local Federal member and get them to change this attitude from the Defence Minister.

Senator Hill is the only stumbling block that is preventing this reclassification of Rwanda Service to Active Service, and I have it on good authority that the ADF supports this reclassification.

This issue is being blocked by a Minister who is neglecting his duty of care to Younger Veterans and Rwandan veterans, to ensure that they are entitled to the correct Veteran Entitlements that they so rightly deserve.

So do your bit - write to the Prime Minister directly and see your local Federal Member and tell them how you feel about Senator Hill's attitude!

CONTACT: National President Paul Copeland Mobile: 0419 355 226