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Defence Minister farewells East Timor peacekeepers.

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MEDIA RELEASE Senator the Hon. Robert Hill Minister for Defence Leader of the Government in the Senate


21 Sep 2002 MIN 509/02


Defence Minister farewells East Timor Peacekeepers


Defence Minister Robert Hill today farewelled soldiers from the Darwin-based 5th/7th Royal Australian Regiment Battalion Group before they depart for their second tour of peacekeeping duty in East Timor.

The battalion includes Alpha Company manned largely by reservists - the first time since World War II that a formed combat arms unit of Army Reserve soldiers has deployed on operations - and a company of Fijian soldiers.

The group completed a series of gruelling exercises yesterday designed to simulate events that may arise during their deployment. The soldiers tested their skills in border patrolling, how to evacuate sick and wounded personnel, manage border crossing points and deal with criminal acts or local disturbances.

"The Government believes that Australia still has a role in providing security in East Timor. Australia remains committed to supporting the development of East Timor’s institutions, including the East Timor Defence Force," Senator Hill said.

"Our forces in East Timor serving as part of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force are no longer responsible for the everyday law and order. However, they still face challenges as diverse as ensuring the safety of the people of East Timor as well as helping the sick or injured. This requires them to be fast thinking, adaptable, and ready to react with little or no notice.

"As well, the Australian Defence Force members remain on heightened alert following last week’s unconfirmed report of a possible terrorist threat against Australian interests in the region. They are continuing to provide additional security, including to the Australian embassy in Dili."

Senator Hill said one of the highlights of this rotation was the deployment of a company manned largely by reservists.

"This will be the first time since World War II that a formed combat arms unit of Army Reserve soldiers has deployed on operations, and is a significant move away from the past role of our Reserves," Senator Hill said.

"Already Reservists have been successfully deployed as part of Army units, and it is important that we not forget the important role Reservists play in maintaining a highly capable Defence Force - a role we highlighted in the 2000 Defence White Paper."

Several employers of the Reserve members of the Battalion’s Alpha Company were flown from Victoria to Darwin to attend the farewell parade and to gain a greater understanding of what their employees will be doing during their time in East Timor.

The Battalion will include a fully-integrated Fiji company, reinforcing the ADF’s commitment to establishing strong relationships with other defence forces particularly those in our region.

"Fiji was an earlier contributor to INTERFET and has continued its commitment in East Timor," Senator Hill said.

"The Republic of Fiji Military Forces have previously participated with Australia in Bougainville and it is pleasing to see that Fijian troops will now serve alongside Australians in East Timor."

During its first tour of East Timor in 1999/2000, the Battalion had the distinction of becoming the longest serving Australian unit on overseas United Nations operations since the Korean War.

The Group’s departure was marked with a parade through Darwin’s city streets and morning tea hosted by Darwin City Council.




















Media contacts:

Minister’s office Sascha Meldrum 0409 034 241

5th/7th RAR Battalion Group John McPherson 0416 257 454

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