Dannielle Brearley commemorates East Timor service

Dannielle Brearley
Dannielle Brearley served with Australian forces in East Timor in 1999-2000. She's travelling there to commemorate the 20th anniversary.

Bundaberg RSL secretary Dannielle Brearley will be in East Timor next week to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Australia's peacekeeping operations.

The former Royal Australian Navy sailor served as part of International Force East Timor (INTERFET) in 1999-2000.

The taskforce was organised and led by Australia in accordance with United Nations resolutions to address the humanitarian and security crisis that took place in East Timor before the arrival of United Nations peacekeepers.

INTERFET was commanded by Major General Peter Cosgrove, who will be attending the commemorations after recently completing a term as Governor General.

Dannielle Brearley said she's honoured to be one of six RSL representatives from across Queensland.

Dannielle grew up in the Army and RAAF town of Wagga in country NSW and decided she wanted a “left field” career in the Navy.

She served four years aboard the guided missile frigate HMAS Newcastle.

“I was part of the Navy contingent that went over to East Timor,” she said.

“It was still classified as an active war zone.

“I went ashore every day and was involved with everything.”

The situation was volatile after Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed the former Portuguese colony.

A UN-sponsored referendum on 30 August 1999 showed overwhelming approval for East Timorese independence from Indonesia.

This provoked violent clashes, sparking a humanitarian and security crisis.

“The violence that accompanied the plebiscite in East Timor in 1999 was a strategic shock for the Australian Government and the Australian Army,” the Army website says.

“In response to the escalating violence and very real humanitarian crisis overwhelming the people of East Timor, the United Nations called on Australia to lead the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET).

“After years of being on the strategic sidelines, the Australian Army was now immersed in what the then Chief of the Defence Force, Admiral Chris Barrie considered, ‘the most significant military undertaking we have had since World War II’.”

Dannielle Brearley
Dannielle Brearley with Bundaberg RSL member Herb Woodward, a 100-year-old veteran of World War II.

Dannielle has been secretary of the Bundaberg RSL sub-branch for nearly 12 months.

“I love being back with the veterans and hearing their stories,” she said.

“My grandfather served in the Korean War.

“I had the honour of attending 50th anniversary commemorations for the Korean War and meeting some of the people he served with.

“That was very emotional.”

Dannielle said she doesn't know what to expect in East Timor next week, but she takes pride in her contribution.

“I think it will be totally different to what we saw — the drama and devastation will be gone,” she said.

“In 1999 they didn't have shops or trade or tourism.

“The visit will bring back lots of feelings and memories.”

In May 2002, East Timor became Timor-Leste, a fully independent country with a parliamentary government and free of Portuguese or Indonesian rule for the first time since 1769.