Darwin Remembers INTERFET

The International Force for East Timor - twenty years on

Lindsay Murdoch, Ian McPhedran and John Perryman, in conversation with Host Craig Stockings

On 30 August 1999, 78.5% of the people of East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia rather than for integration with it. Long running violence had preceded the plebiscite, but within hours of the vote the violence escalated dramatically, and a refugee crisis mounted. The situation provoked profound concern worldwide, particularly in Australia and especially in Darwin where there had always been close connections with East Timor, only 700 kilometres distant. Australia proposed that it should lead an international peace-keeping force. Under the auspices of the United Nations, an International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) was formed. This force was placed under Australian leadership, under the command of Major General Peter Cosgrove. INTERFET was eventually comprised of 11,000 troops, half of them Australian. It was the largest single deployment of Australian military forces overseas since World War Two and it was the first time that Australia had provided the core force for a UN mandated peace enforcement operation. Most of the Australian logistic support was based in Darwin. INTERFET entered Dili on 20 October 1999; by February 2000 INTERFET was able to withdraw and East Timor was able to begin building a new independent nation.

Join Lindsay, Ian and John and Craig – who were all in East Timor in 1999 – as they recall and discuss INTERFET and ask whether INTERFET has been adequately acknowledged in Australian military history.

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You may have seen Sir Peter Cosgrove participating in this session previously. Unfortunately, due to other commitments, Sir Peter Cosgrove is unable to participate in this session. The session will be continuing with participants Lindsay Murdoch, Ian McPhedran, John Perryman and Craig Stockings. In addition, the session has moved to start at 3 pm.


Professor Craig Stockings

Craig Stockings is the Official Historian of Australian Operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and East Timor. He is a graduate of both the Australian Defence Force Academy, and the Royal Military College, Duntroon. As an Infantry Officer he served in a range of regimental appointments within the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. As a junior officer he served during the INTERFET deployment to East Timor in 1999-2000, followed by an appointment as the Aide-de-Camp to the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia. Craig holds a First Class Honours Degree in History, Masters qualifications in International Relations and Education, and a PhD in History. Prior to his appointment as Official Historian, Craig was a Professor of History at the University of New South Wales (Canberra). His areas of academic interest concern general and Australian military history and operational analysis.

Lindsay Murdoch

Lindsay Murdoch is a journalist; a former correspondent based in Singapore, Jakarta and Darwin. In 1999 he reported on the tumultuous events in East Timor and in 2003 he covered the Iraq war while embedded with the US Marines. He now works in the office of the Northern Territory’s Chief Minister, Michael Gunner. Lindsay has won three Walkley Awards.

Ian McPhedran

Walkley Award winner Ian McPhedran is an Australian author and retired journalist.  From 1998 until his retirement in 2016 he worked as defence writer for the News Corp group. In 2003 Ian reported on the Iraq war from Baghdad. In 2009 he took part in an Australian Defence Force ’embedding trial’ – which Ian described as a frustrating and time wasting process. Ian has written seven books, the latest being The Mighty Krait.

John Perryman CSM

John Perryman joined the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in 1980. During a career in communications spanning almost 25 years he attained the rank of warrant officer before commissioning in 2001. Throughout his service he saw much of the world, participating in numerous deployments that included operational service in Somalia, Bougainville and East Timor. In November 2004, John left the permanent navy to take up a position in the Naval History Section at the Sea Power Centre – Australia. John is the co-author of Australia’s Navy in Vietnam and author of Kit Muster – a study of the RAN’s uniforms, badges and categories from colonial times to 1953. John is also a regular editor/contributor to a wide range of other historical books, publications, podcasts and newsletters.

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