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The secret past of Aussie aid
By KATRINA CREER
THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH [Sydney,
April 11, 1999, Sunday
FULLPAGE, LOCAL; Pg. 20
'He was letting the UN know what Iraq was doing - he was
observing - and so Iraq put a price on his head, and they
had to get him out of there quickly'
CAPTIVE Australian relief worker Steve Pratt supplied
information about Iraqi forces to the United Nations (UN)
during the Gulf war.
Mr Pratt's mother, Mavis, said yesterday her son helped
the UN as he worked in northern Iraq to help Kurdish
Mrs Pratt also revealed that her son had been personally
invited to join CARE Australia by then prime minister
"He was letting the UN know what Iraq was doing -he
was observing -so Iraq put a price on his head, and they
had to get him out of there quickly," she said.
"It was just one of the fleeting things that has
happened through Steven's life.
"He has a habit of getting into strife, and his own
good way of getting out of it."
Mr Pratt, 49 -who has a 14-yearold son in Canberra -and
environmental scientist Peter Wallace, 30, have been
missing for 11 days in Yugoslavia.
They are reported to be alive, but detained by Yugoslav
Mrs Pratt said her son, a logistics expert, was a former
Australian army officer who was employed by CARE,
regardless of his involvement with the UN.
Mr Pratt returns to Australia twice every three years to
catch up with his close-knit family.
He contacts them only a few times a year and had hoped to
come back to Australia for a few months at the end of
Mr Pratt apparently became disillusioned with the army
before being invited by Malcolm Fraser to join CARE in
"It was back when the army was going nowhere. There
were no wars, and all he was doing was training -and
Malcolm Fraser knew that," Mrs Pratt said.
"He was friendly with a lot of Liberal politicians,
and Malcom Fraser thought he was a good fellow to work
Mr Pratt entered the army after completing Year 10 and
graduated from Portsea Military College, in Victoria.
He last contacted his family just before Christmas, when
he left a message saying he had "good news" and
would be home in January.
The family rightly assumed the news was that Mr Pratt and
his second wife, Samira, were expecting their first child.
He also phoned his son, saying he would be back home soon
for a week.
But his family is now uncertain whether Mr Pratt made it
to Australia before being called back to the Serbian
Mr Pratt has spent time helping refugees in the world's
most notorious trouble spots, including Somalia, Yemen,
Iraq and Rwanda.
According to his brother, Stuart, he was frustrated that
he had become cut off from refugees and was no longer
able to co-ordinate aid from his base in Belgrade.
The lines of communication were
down, and he and Mr Wallace were reportedly trying to go
to where the refugees were when they were caught at the
Both men were driving UNmarked four-wheel-drive vehicles
when they were stopped.
Mr Pratt's family has asked CARE Australia and the
Foreign Affairs Department why the aid workers would have
been detained, but have not received any concrete answers.
"The who, where and why, we don't know and we
haven't been given any indication," Stuart Pratt
"Australia is an ally of NATO and that is the only
thing I can think that would make people hostile.
"It's in a time of war, and I think anything can
"As far as I'm concerned, he's working purely for
Mr Pratt grew up at Gosford, where his father, Ben, now
dead, was a shire clerk.
The eldest of four children, he has two brothers -Stuart
and Ian -and a younger sister, Elizabeth, all aged in
their 40s. The family was keen on golf, but Mr Pratt
never considered himself a sportsman; instead, he joined
the local cadets.
Mr Pratt was involved in local campaigns and helped with
the clean-up after Cyclone Tracy, in Darwin.
Stuart Pratt said the work was demanding, and the
brothers did not get much time to communicate.
"I was surprised when his face appeared on TV the
week before he went missing -in terms of his appearance,
he looked worn out and run down," he said.
Usually, when Mr Pratt arrives home, the family likes to
get together and listen to his overseas adventures.
During an aid mission in Rwanda, Mr Pratt was caught in
crossfire as he tried to help refugees leave under fire.
"He had to do some fancy footwork to get out of
there," his brother said.
"Steve's work can be dangerous.
I don't think it's supposed to be, but I think that where
there are refugees, there's danger."
Copyright 1999 Nationwide News Pty
Limited * Posted for Fair Use Only
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