UNSW Canberra marked the 20th anniversary of the UNAMET and INTERFET deployments to East Timor with a one-day symposium at Russell Offices in Canberra on Tuesday 17 September.

The event explored the enduring significance of the intervention for Australia’s operational preparedness and covered a plethora of topics relating to how the Defence Industry has been able to develop over the two decades since the deployment.

Speakers at the symposium included former prime minister John Howard, General the Honorable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK AC(Mil) CVO MC (Ret’d), the East Timorese Ambassador to Australia and former refugee, Abel Guterres, former Queensland Governor and diplomat Penny Wensley and senior ADF personnel and Defence Department staff.

UNSW Canberra Professor Tom Frame, Director, Public Leadership Research Group and Howard Library said that much has happened since 1999 as a consequence of the UNAMET and INTERFET deployments.

“This symposium is quite significant in that the participants are looking back in order that those looking forward might draw creatively and critically on their experiences and expertise.”

“The presenters have been asked to identify issues and dilemmas and, where possible, to suggest a range of responses and solutions. Hopefully we will all gain a deeper appreciation of the lessons that departments and agencies might learn from 1999 and its continuing challenges.”

The symposium provided a cross-section of operational insights from all three services in order to provide a thorough overview and unpack a variety of intricacies surrounding the deployment itself, and the developments of the Defence Industry as whole over the last 20 years.

“There is a continuing need to be better informed about their activities and achievements while gaining a deeper appreciation of leadership tests in the areas of politics and diplomacy, strategy and tactics, organisation and logistics, military intelligence and public information, human performance and ethical constraints,” Professor Frame said.

“More broadly, this gathering will prompt discussion and provoke debate about what Defence, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) can glean from its recent experience and how that learning should be absorbed into their activities both now and into the future.

“Many questions are still to be asked of the UNAMET and INTERFET deployments and it is our hope that this symposium will encourage thinking not only about the answers but whether the right questions are really being asked.”

UNSW Canberra would like to acknowledge its conference partner the Australian Amy Research Centre (AARC), conference sponsor Raytheon Australia and broadcast partner Sky News Extra.