A special reunion was recently held in Darwin, to celebrate and commemorate the achievements of Australian police peacekeepers in various locations across the globe. 

This year marks 60 years of Australian police peacekeeping, with the first contingent of Australian police deploying to Cyprus in May 1964, as part of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). It is also the 25th anniversary of Australian police first deploying as part of the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), and the 10th anniversary of Australian policing's involvement in the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

Members of the first Australian UNFICYP contingent on parade in 1965. Photo: AFP Museum

In total, over 4000 Australian police officers have served internationally in peacekeeping, peace monitoring, peace enforcement and capacity building missions, and stability enforcement operations, in countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Bougainville, Cambodia, Cyprus, Haiti, Mozambique, Liberia, Namibia, the Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Thailand and Timor-Leste (East Timor). Some of these missions were under the auspices of the United Nations - others were non-UN bilateral or multilateral operations.

The role of police in such missions is multifaceted, determined by the needs of the mission, the agreement and requirements of the host nation, and available capabilities. Australian police have undertaken duties as varied as operational policing, monitoring elections, delivering training, capacity building, advising and mentoring support.

The United Nations and Overseas Policing Association of Australia (UNOPAA) held its biennial conference in Darwin, in the last week of May 2024. A highlight of the week was a march of current and former police officers, who served as international peacekeepers. Assistance for the march was provided by the Northern Territory Police, including their cadet unit. A replica of the type of Land Rovers used by peacekeepers in Cyprus in the 1960s led the parade, along with mounted Northern Territory police.

Photo: Northern Territory Police

The march was followed by a church service, during which the gathering paused to reflect on the supreme sacrifice made by six police officers and personnel during the missions in Cyprus, the Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste. Attendees at the service included the Administrator for the Northern Territory, His Honour Professor the Honourable Hugh Heggie AO PSM, Cyprus' ambassador to Australia and the Timor-Leste Consul-General in Darwin.

UNOPAA membership is open to any person (police officer, protective service officer or police public servant) who served as part of a police peacekeeping (or similar) mission. More information about UNOPAA can be found at their website http://www.unopaa.org

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