Casualties: ADF and AFP in Timor-Leste
Since the INTERFET intervention in 1999, there have been three deaths amongst Australian personnel serving in Timor-Leste, as well as a number of people injured in accidents.
Former ADF personnel serving in Timor (as in other peacekeeping operations) have also lodged claims for post-traumatic stress disorder and a range of mental health issues. The Australian Defence Force has been criticised for the lack of counselling and other mental health support for personnel deployed overseas on their return to Australia.
Deaths of ADF personnel in Timor
Lance Corporal Russell Eisenhuth, 17 January 2000
Fifty years of peacekeeping, 11 Australians dead, Sydney Morning Herald, December 22, 2004
“Lance Corporal Russell Eisenhuth, died of respiratory illness in Dili, East Timor, in January 2000.”
Corporal Stuart Jones, 9 August 2000
Military Board of Inquiry Findings – Death of Corporal Stuart Jones, Department of Defence media release PACC 196/01, 14 June 2001.
“A Military Board of Inquiry investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Corporal Stuart Jones in East Timor last year has today released its findings. On 9 August 2000, Corporal Jones, of the Second Cavalry Regiment, sustained a fatal gunshot wound to his chest. Corporal Jones was on an operational tour in East Timor and was travelling in the rear of an armoured vehicle at the time of the incident. President of the Board, Colonel Wayne Bowen, said that this was a tragic incident and that the thoughts of Army are with the family and friends of Corporal Jones.”
Private Ashley Baker, 5 November 2007
Death of an Australian Soldier in East Timor, Department of Defence media release CPA 418/07, 6 November 2007
“An Australian soldier has died while serving on operations as part of the International Stabilisation Force in East Timor. The Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, said the soldier was found deceased yesterday afternoon in Dili. The soldier has died of a gun shot wound while in a barracks area. The circumstances of the incident are still uncertain and will be formally investigated.”
ADF names soldier who died in East Timor, Sydney Morning Herald, 7 November 2007
“The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has released the name of the soldier who died in East Timor on Monday. Private Ashley Baker, 19, was found dead in a barracks in the capital Dili. Defence said he suffered a gunshot wound. He had been a member of the Townsville-based 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR) since last November and was serving with the Timor Leste Battle Group when he died.”
Soldier’s deadly dressing down, Brisbane Times, 10 March 2008
“An Australian soldier in East Timor was found dead from a gunshot wound inside a locked toilet cubicle, hours after a sergeant “dressed him down” for mislaying his rifle, an inquiry has heard. Queenslander Private Ashley Baker was discovered lying in the foetal position in a pool of his own blood on November 5 last year, three days after his 19th birthday. Caught under his arm and between his legs was a Steyr rifle, which had discharged three rounds, an Australian Defence Force (ADF) commission of inquiry was told in Darwin today.
“Earlier that morning, the highly-trained infantry soldier was reprimanded for leaving his rifle overnight in the recreation area at the Australian helicopter base in Dili. He was told disciplinary action was being considered.”
Report confirms soldier’s suicide, ABC News Online, 17 February 2009.
“A report into the death of central Queensland soldier Private Ashley Baker in East Timor in November 2007 has confirmed that he took his own life. A commission of inquiry into 19-year-old Private Baker’s death heard evidence in Darwin and Brisbane last year. Questions were raised at the inquiry about his mental state, but the commission has found that Private Baker, from Tannum Sands, and his colleagues had received adequate mental health and suicide prevention training. The report is critical of the way the Army communicated with Private Baker’s family after his death, saying they were not provided with timely information about the circumstances of his death.”
Injuries to ADF and AFP personnel
Two Australian soldiers injured in vehicle accident in East Timor, Department of Defence media reslease, 26 September 2008.
“Two Australian soldiers serving with the International Stabilisation Force (ISF) in East Timor sustained serious injuries when the water tanker they were travelling in was involved in a single motor vehicle accident.. The accident occurred approximately 50kms west of Dili, in the Maubara district. The water tanker rolled down a 15 metre embankment. Two ISF Helicopters were flown to the site with an Aero Medical Evacuation and Emergency Response Team. Both soldiers were provided with on site first aid and their conditions stabilised. The soldiers were then evacuated from the accident site by ISF helicopters and returned to the ISF Medical Facility at the Heliport in Dili. The soldiers have undergone further medical examinations and minor medical treatment. Both soldiers will be placed on restricted duties and are expected to make a full recovery from their injuries and return to normal duties.”
Commentary and analysis
Soldier’s suicide sparks inquiry, Les Kennedy, The Age, 1 November 2007
“Last August war veterans urged the Federal Government to provide greater access to psychiatric treatment for former soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, in particular those who had served in East Timor. About 1200 claims from the 16,000 veterans of the East Timor peacekeeping operation have been filed with Veterans Affairs for shell-shock and post-traumatic stress disorder. There have also been attempts by veterans to commit suicide….
“In August 2005, two years after being discharged from the Royal Australian Navy after rising to the rank of lieutenant commander, David Buck, 53, a Timor veteran, tried to get NSW police to shoot him dead by staging a robbery at the Umina Bowling Club with a fake bomb. Mr Buck was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of seeing machete-wielding mobs and hacked bodies. Last year NSW District Court judge Michael Finnane, in deciding not to jail Mr Buck, described his case as tragic and bizarre.”
Mentally ill troops tell of bullying and neglect, The Age, 21 April 2008.
“Serving and former soldiers have broken ranks to expose the neglect, bullying and bastardisation faced by some Australian Defence Force personnel with mental health problems. The soldiers, who have served in the Middle East, East Timor and Africa, claim they were denied adequate support and ostracised after seeking help for mental health problems….
“The revelations come with the Federal Government still to release the findings of a military inquiry into the 2006 suicide of Afghanistan veteran Geff Gregg, who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after his involvement in a firefight. It is believed the inquiry has called for an overhaul of veterans’ benefits, compensation and retraining services….
“An inquiry into the death of Private Ashley Baker — who died from a gunshot wound in a locked toilet in East Timor — will resume in Brisbane today. The inquiry has already heard he was bullied and had depression.”
Vales, Peacekeepers Association
List of Australian Defence and Police Forces Personnel Killed in Action or died on Duty during Peacekeeping and Peacemaking Operations since 1966.
Dead troops my great fear: Cosgrove, The Australian, 25 June 2005.
“Outgoing Defence Force Chief Peter Cosgrove has revealed that he feared Australian troops deployed to East Timor under his command could suffer “scores of casualties” in the first few days of the UN-led peacekeeping mission. In a farewell interview with The Weekend Australian, General Cosgrove said the close links built over many years between the Australian and Indonesian defence forces were fundamental to the success of the Interfet operation in September 1999….
“As it turned out, General Cosgrove’s fears proved unfounded: no Diggers were killed in action in East Timor. There were two Australian deaths, however. Lance Corporal Russell Eisenhuth died of a respiratory illness in January 2000, and Corporal Stuart Jones died in August that year when a weapon discharged in an armoured vehicle.”