Academics, veterans and their families gathered at the Australian War Memorial on 12 April for the opening of 'A Matter of Trust: Dayaks & Z Special Unit Operatives in Borneo 1945’.
The exhibition is an outcome of an ARC Linkage Grant project led by Professor Christine Helliwell of the School of Archaeology and Anthropology in the College of Arts and Social Sciences, and was co-curated by Professor Helliwell and her Linkage Grant Partner Investigator Robyn van Dyk of the Australian War Memorial.
Looking at three secret operations carried out by members of Z Special Unit – forerunner of today’s SAS and Commando units – behind Japanese lines in Borneo in 1945, the exhibition focuses particularly on the partnerships established by the mostly very young Australian operatives and the indigenous Dayak peoples who worked and fought beside them. It contains original photographs, diaries and silk escape maps, military equipment used at the time, and Dayak artefacts including woven cloths, an aged elephant tusk and swords. It also includes extracts of interviews carried out by Professor Helliwell with both Z Special Unit veterans and elderly Dayaks.
The exhibition opening was attended by four of the five remaining veterans of Z Special Unit who served in Borneo during World War 2 – ranging in age from 94 to 98 – and by members of several Dayak groups, as well as dignitaries including the Australian Special Operations Commander Major General Adam Findlay. The opening speech was delivered by Professor Helliwell.
'A Matter of Trust' runs until 16 September 2018.
A full gallery of photographs from the launch is available from the Australian War Memorial Flickr page.