UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara

(Mission des Nations Unies pour un Referendum au Sahara Occidental (MINURSO))

1991 - 1994



Australia: 5 September1991-1994

 Strength: 5 x 45 person Contingents - Totalling 225 personnel.

AO:         Morocco, Algeria, Western Sahara and Canary Islands.

 Since Spain's unilateral withdrawal from the Western Sahara territory in 1975, the Saharawi people (Polisario) have fiercely resisted annexation by neighbouring Morocco.  MINURSO was established in September 1991 to monitor the ceasefire and supervise a referendum on whether the Saharawi people wanted independence or incorporation into Morocco.

The natural hazards synonymous with the Sahara have been compounded by the man-made hazards of an area that has been a battlefield for the last 78 years.  The mine hazards and the exceptionally harsh conditions of the Sahara were a part of the every day living of the Australian Contingent, that was dispersed over four areas.

                 Australia provided the mission's 45-strong Force Communications Unit, until the end of 1994, when the Australian Government withdrew the Unit.  The contingent was dispersed over four areas and operated in exceptionally harsh climatic and environmental conditions.  The referendum has been postponed several times and is yet to occur.  On 21 June 1993, Army Doctor Major Susan Felsche, Royal Australian Army Medical Corps, became the first Australian female soldier to die in a multinational peacekeeping operation when she was killed in an aircraft crash.

                 MINURSO has yet to have it's referendum, and it is perceived that Australians will again take on the role of the Force Communications Unit in the future.

Killed:   (1) Major Susan Felsche, RAAMC, 21 June 1993.

 VEA:       Schedule 3 (Peacekeeping Service), from 27 June 1991.

Awards: ASM (1975- Present) Clasp “WEST SAHARA”, and MINURSO Medal.




ASM 1975 - present MINURSO Medal