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The Courage For Peace exhibition (Vetaffairs Spring 2019)

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An armed soldier in mid-stride, with a burning building behind him.

Private Anthony Meixner, A Company, 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment provides security for Bombeiros (East Timorese firefighters) as they attempt to put out a major fire lit by feuding gangs in Dili, East Timor, 2006. Photograph: David Dare Parker P05381.022

On Boxing Day 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia, triggering a tsunami that killed an estimated 230,000 people in 14 countries across the Indian Ocean. When the disaster occurred, Australia’s response was not to ask whether we should help, but how we could.

Rapidly Australia committed millions of dollars in immediate and long-term aid, sending Australian Defence Force deployments to Banda Aceh in Indonesia, and Australian Federal Police Disaster Victim Identification teams to Thailand.

The nation adopted a whole-of-government approach to help in the wake of the disaster. We acted not in Australia’s national interests, but in the interests of our shared humanity. We were there to help.

On 17 October, the Australian War Memorial will open a new exhibition, The Courage for Peace. It focuses on Australian peacemakers, peacekeepers, disaster-relief workers and capacity builders, showing how they contribute to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region and across the globe. The exhibition honours the way in which thousands of Australians have worked with courageous hearts and strategic minds to avert tragedy, build peace, and contribute to international efforts in search of a better world.

The Courage for Peace tells the stories of Australians serving in diverse roles around the world, from Somalia and Rwanda to Cambodia, East Timor, Bougainville and the Solomon Islands. It commemorates the service of these men and women, explains why their work is so important, and honours their sacrifice.

The exhibition will run for nearly 12 months in the Special Exhibitions Gallery on the lower ground floor of the Memorial.

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