Folk singer Fred Smith's concert draws on his experience as a diplomat in Afghanistan.
Folk singer Fred Smith's concert draws on his experience as a diplomat in Afghanistan. Contributed

Singing ex-diplomat brings Afghanistan war to life

FORMER Aussie diplomat Fred Smith has a song in his heart and a story to tell about life on the Afghanistan war front-line.

The 45-year-old singer-songwriter turned author will perform across regional Queensland over the next six months.

Smith is well-known on the alternative music circuit, having played some of Australia's iconic events including the Port Fairy and Woodford folk festivals.

The married father-of-one is also a humanitarian professional with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

He spent more than two years working as a diplomat in Afghanistan and his Dust of Uruzgan concerts - based on the book of the same name - bring this experience to life using songs, comedy, music and photos.

Smith told ARM Newsdesk he wanted to show regional Queenslanders what life was like for the 20,000 Australians who served in Afghanistan as part of Australia's commitment to America's invasion of the country following the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

"My job was to talk to the tribal leaders around Uruzgan province and understand their world," he said.

"It was fascinating but at the same time there were dangers.

"They (the Taliban) were often firing rockets over the fence at us and whenever you travelled you had to have about a dozen soldiers around you to protect you from ambushes and improvised explosive devices."

Smith forged strong relationships with the Aussie soldiers he lived with, a bond made stronger as he faced danger and death alongside them.

"It was scary at times - I feared for my life a couple of times," he said.

"There was an occasion when I was living in a hardened steel shipping container.

"One night a rocket came over and landed on the container - it made a hell of a bang.

"It didn't breach the container but it was scary.

"And there were times when gunfire went over my head."

Smith said his work in Afghanistan "made a difference" for locals.

"But the most important thing is that we got to understand our role in that society as a source of power and resources," he said.

Now living in Canberra with wife Maryanne and daughter Olympia, Smith said he would never forget the mates he made overseas.

"I've got a lot of very close friendships among the Australian soldiers," he said.

Smith and his band will visit Millmerran, Miles, Charleville, Quilpie, Jundah, Longreach, Emerald, Biloela, Yeppoon, Ipswich, Mt Isa, Ayr, Mackay, Gladstone, Bundaberg, Gympie, Goondiwindi, Toowoomba and Maleny from November 9 to May 7.

The tour will also include a number of lectures and book talks.

Special concerts will be held on Remembrance Day (November 11) in Charleville and on Anzac Day (April 25) in Gladstone. - ARM NEWSDESK

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