Sydney Launch of 'Enduring Memories'

 Mrs. Meg Green, President of the War Widow's Guild of Australia and NSW & Rear Admiral Ken Doolan AO, RAN (Retired)

 Mrs. Meg Green, President of the War Widow's Guild of Australia and NSW & Rear Admiral Ken Doolan AO, RAN (Retired)

Today the book“Enduring Memories: Timor-Leste’s Resistance Veterans & the 2015 Centenary of ANZAC Tour” was launched in Sydney by H.E. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão andRear Admiral Ken Doolan AO, RAN (Retired). 

The Timorese veterans from both the travelling and Sydney based delegations gathered at the Hyde Park Inn after participating in a moving 'Star Ceremony' at the NSW ANZAC War Memorial in Hyde Park.

Minister Gusmão said " This book is a tribute to the heroes of the past from our two nations.  It honours our veterans and pays tribute to the special relationship between the Timorese and the Australian people."

Publisher David Longfield

Publisher David Longfield

Rear Admiral Ken Doolan AO, RAN (Retired), Mrs. Meg Green, President of the War Widow's Guild of Australia and NSW, Barry Grant, President of the Commando Association of Australia NSW and publisher David Longfield all spoke at the launch along with Minister Gusmão.

Special thanks were given to Mr. Rod White AM, FRD, President of the Returned and Services League of Australia, New South Wales, and Mrs. Meg Green,  for the support given to the visit of Timor-Leste's Veterans to NSW for this year's ANZAC commemorations. These veterans, Minister Gusmão said, "suffered terrible hardship and deprivation in our 24-year struggle for independence.  They are our national heroes and we honour them as such."

The book is to be distributed widely amongst veterans organisations, Timor-Leste Consulates and the Embassies and supporters and decision makers.




Balibo House Trust

Veterans, H.E. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão and Francisco Guterres 'Lu Olo' attended a fundraising lunch to support the work of the Balibo House Trust, and in particular to assist in raising funds to  build, equip and staff a dental clinic in Balibo that will serve the village and surrounding areas.

David Leslie of Ellerston Capital spoke about how the Balibo House Trust and the beginnings of his own involvement. Former Victorian Premier, the Hon Steve Bracks AC, explained about some of the successful work already achieved  and Chair of the Trust Rob Hudson some in detail about the practical needs to move the project forward.

H.E. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão talked about  the veteran visit and the issue of maritime boundaries. Regarding the newly initiated process of Compulsory Conciliation under UNCLOS he noted: 

"This process will bring us together.  It will require Australia to negotiate in good faith on the basis of a report prepared by a conciliation commission that is provided to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. However, Australia could agree to negotiate maritime boundaries with us now and obviate the need for this process.'

The Balibo House Trust has a website for more information. 

Here is the speech in its entirety:

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here among friends and to come together with such a distinguished group of people to support the Balibo House Trust.

I would like to thank Steve Bracks for his kind words and for his long time commitment to Timor-Leste.  He is a true comrade. 

I would also like to thank Ellerston Capital and Chris Kourtis for hosting this lunch and for their support to our country.  David Leslie from Ellerston is the man behind this lunch.  He has been to Timor-Leste several times and last year joined our delegation for the ANZAC Day Dawn Service in Sydney.

Most of all, I commend the Balibo House Trust that works to honour the memories of the Balibo Five through its support to Timor-Leste and the Balibo community. 

John Milkins is the son of Gary Cunningham, one of the Balibo Five. He is with us today.  John is a tireless campaigner for justice for his father and the Balibo Five and he is a dear friend of Timor-Leste.

We must also thank the Chair of the Balibo House Trust, Rob Hudson, and the CEO, Terry Bracks, for their dedication to enriching the lives of the people of Balibo.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am in Australia with a group of Timorese veterans at the invitation of the RSL.

The relationship between our countries began in World War II, when many Timorese risked their lives to support a small group of Australian commandos who were fighting the Japanese in the hills and valleys of Timor.

I believe you all have watched the story of Keith Hayes, on the ABC 7:30 Report last Monday.

During our harsh and prolonged struggled for independence, the Veterans of the 2/2 Commandos, like many Australians, stood with us.

The Balibó Five is the irreversible continuation of the history, between the two peoples… from 1942-1945 to 1975-1999! A history of common values and ideals for peace, for justice and against the violation of the fundamental rights of the people! The support of Australian people came out to denounce the immoral policies of successive Australian governments that recognized the illegal occupation of Timor-Leste, in exchange of a 50/50 sharing of our resources in the Timor Sea.

As a natural consequence of this friendship, today, the RSL and Australian veterans are working with the veterans from Timor-Leste to help us build our own national veterans organisation.

In 1999, following our overwhelming vote for independence, our country was scorched to the ground.  With the deployment of INTERFET, the Australian men and women helped us to restore peace and stability.

But remembering 1999, I recalled a beautiful case of friendship, solidarity and humanity displayed by the Australian soldiers. Right here in Melbourne, a group of Australian army officers who served in Timor in 1999 returned home to establish the Wild Timor Coffee house. They had seen at close range the suffering of our people, and they resolved to do something to help. They saw a girl of 4 or 5, emaciated and sick. They took care of her and subsequently offered to pay for her studies. She recently graduated from university.

These wonderful men didn’t stop here. They wanted to do something of concrete benefit for the people of Timor-Leste and opted to establish their coffee house to promote and provide a market for Timor’s most famous crop. They personally assist with the coffee harvests and raise funds at their café to purchase more advanced machinery for the coffee growers. Within their café they also promote and sell Timorese handcrafts and take up collections for water and other projects to benefit the coffee growing communities.

These are the beautiful and inspiring examples of solidarity and humanity that are marks of the Australian character.

Well, at the same time we were going about building our nation from the ashes. And while I am in Australia I am also talking about the progress of our country and our pursuit of maritime boundaries.

We have made remarkable progress.  Timor-Leste is a democratic country, governed by the rule of law.  We have enjoyed some of the strongest economic growth rates in the world and our sovereign wealth fund, the Petroleum Fund, has over $16 billion dollars which we have invested to fund the development of our country and support our future generations.

But we still have a long way to go.  We remain a fragile and developing country and our people endure hardship and difficultly. 

That is why we still look to our international friends as partners in our development.

Paul Little can attest to our story.  When he was in charge of Toll Holdings he was critical to providing the support and logistics we needed to build our young nation.  I am sure that Paul would agree with me that there is much that we can still do to support the Timorese people.

That is why I commend the Balibo House Trust and Ellerston Capital for hosting today.  Dental services are much needed in our country and I know the Timorese will travel for many hours to seek the care they need at the Balibo Trust Dental Clinic.

I urge you all to get behind the Trust and support their fantastic work.

I must say that the activities of the Trust Fund in Balibo were the topic of conversation in a recent meeting we had with the CEO of the Western Australian Museum, which houses a number of precious objects gifted by those Timorese who assisted the 2nd 2nd Commandos during World War 2 and which perpetuated the bonds of friendship between our two peoples.

Kirsty’s initiative of restoring the Dare Memorial was appreciated also, however there was consensus that much more needs to be done. The rich and animated conversation gave rise to some unexpected stories and connections also. An Australian present announced “my father was a 2nd 2nd Commando and he used to tell us lots of stories.” President Lu Olo of our delegation responded with “my father was also one of those who helped the Australian soldiers and we, too, have lots of stories as yet untold.”

We agreed with the CEO of the Western Australian Museum that we would send youths to receive training.  They will then return to Timor to collect the stories of Timorese with a view to, to the extent possible, discovering the whereabouts of the various hideouts and battle grounds of significance in order to complete the narrative of our shared history and friendship.

Without an honourable past, our present is empty and the future bleak!

Ladies and gentlemen,

Before I finish I would like to mention a national priority for Timor-Leste – our right to maritime boundaries.

Our people struggled for 24 years for our independence to achieve sovereignty over our land.  We now face a new struggle - to secure sovereign rights over our seas. 

There are currently no maritime boundaries between Australia and Timor-Leste – we only have in place provisional arrangements to share resources that under international law rightly belong to us.

The Australian Government knows its position is not consistent with international law.  That is why in 2002, only two months before our nation became independent, Australia withdrew from the binding jurisdiction of dispute resolution bodies in maritime boundary disputes, such as the International Court of Justice.   

While Australia has settled its maritime boundaries with its other five maritime neighbours, it refuses to talk to us about the remaining 1.8% of its maritime boundary.

And so, we have been left with no choice.  Earlier this month Timor-Leste notified Australia that we would be using the Compulsory Conciliation provisions under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. 

This process will bring us together.  It will require Australia to negotiate in good faith on the basis of a report prepared by a conciliation commission that is provided to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. However, Australia could agree to negotiate maritime boundaries with us now and obviate the need for this process. 

We are confident that through this process the Australian Government can look beyond its thirst for petroleum and recognise that its position in the Timor Sea is unsustainable.  All we ask for is our rights under international law.

We know that the Australian people will support us and that the friendship between our countries will endure and strengthen.

Thank you for coming today.  I know that you have taken time from your busy schedule to learn more about our country and to support our people. 

Thank you for your solidarity and for your support to the Balibo House Trust.

Veterans Participate in Mass at St Mary's Cathedral Perth

The veterans attended a Mass at St Mary's Cathedral in Perth this morning. The 11:00am Mass was conducted by Monsignor Michael Keating who warmly welcomed the visitors from Timor-Leste. The Monsignor spoke to the congregation about the courage demonstrated by the Timorese people in supporting Australian soldiers in Timor during World War II and said that this story needed to be more widely known.

He also touched on the difficulties faced by many veterans around the world, left to deal with the trauma of war, asking all to pray for veterans everywhere.