This is the story of Operation Semut, an Australian secret military operation launched by the organisation popularly known as Z Special Unit in the final months of WWII.
Christine Helliwell is a New Zealand-born anthropologist, author and academic, currently Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University. She has been carrying out research on Borneo's indigenous Dayak peoples - including living with them in their communities for months at a time - for almost forty years, and has written widely on Dayak social and cultural life. Since 2014 Christine has been researching WWII in Borneo, with a particular interest in the special operations conducted there by the Australian secret organisation codenamed Services Reconnaissance Department, popularly known as Z Special Unit. As part of this research she has travelled extensively throughout Sarawak, in the north of the island, and spoken to hundreds of elderly people who still remember the war. She has also interviewed almost all the remaining veterans from these operations, forming friendships with several in the process. In 2016 she was instrumental in organising a ceremony to honour the men and women of SRD/ Z Special Unit, at the Australian War Memorial. In 2018 she co-curated an exhibition at the Memorial on SRD/Z Special Unit operations in Borneo. Christine lives in Canberra. Her book Semut - on the most important of the Borneo 'Z' operations - took her almost four years to write.