On 22 February 2020, a National Commemorative Service was held for the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR), Operation TAMAR at the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial in Canberra.
At the service, the Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC presented the Meritorious Unit Citation (MUC) Warrant to each Service Chief, or their representative. Following the commemorative service, a reception was held at Anzac Hall in the Australian War Memorial, where a number of Operation TAMAR veterans were presented with their individual MUC insignia.
Operation TAMAR was established in 1994, as Rwanda was recovering from civil war and genocide, as part of the UNAMIR. Some 700 personnel were deployed as part of the two Australian Services Contingents that supported the peacekeeping efforts.
Australian peacekeepers worked in the capital, Kigali, and travelled throughout the country, providing help to civilians. Even their advanced training and prior deployments could not prepare the most experienced service personnel for what was awaiting them in Rwanda. Both contingents were confronted with scenes of brutality that few other Australian peacekeepers had faced.
All three services were represented during Operation TAMAR, and the Australian contingents earned enormous respect and admiration for their compassion, professionalism and humanity. This National Commemorative Service provided Australia with the opportunity to recognise their dedication and sacrifice as well as to thank them for their service.
The Call to Remembrance was delivered by Air Vice-Marshal Tracy Smart AO who deployed with Operation TAMAR: ‘We remember that the service and sacrifice was not in vain. Rwanda has emerged from its darkest hours to become one of Africa’s most successful countries … It’s the hand you hold, the life you save, the difference you make. We saved lives and prevented more tragedy.’
In his Commemorative Address, the Governor-General said: ‘Today, we remember the service and sacrifice of all those who served on Operation TAMAR and the price many have paid for the courage and selfless dedication to the caring of others … On behalf of all Australians, I thank you for what you have done for us, the United Nations and for Rwanda.’
The reading was delivered by Captain Amanda Garlick RAN who served as a nurse with Operation TAMAR: ‘The care and protection we provided gave hope to a community in disarray.’
If you would like to watch the Operation TAMAR National Commemorative Service, visit the ‘Live videos’ on the DVA Facebook page.
Photo: A member of the catafalque party at the National Commemorative Service. Department of Defence.