At the invitation of the President of the Returned and Services League Western Australia, the Hon Graham Edwards AM, the veterans of Timor-Leste attended as special guests at a Sunset Service in Kings Park Perth.
During the Service a wreath was laid on behalf of Timor-Leste by H.E. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão and Mr. Franciso Guterres "Lu Olo" former President of Parliament, President of FRETILIN.
The Timorese veterans were warmly welcomed by Australian veterans at the conclusion of the service.
Minister Gusmão gave a short speech as a part of the ceremony:
The Hon Graham Edwards AM, State President, The Returned & Services League, Western Australian Branch
Veterans and their families
Serving members of the armed forces
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls
It is a great honour to speak at this Sunset Service to commemorate the ANZAC tradition and honour those that have served their country. I was moved to listen to the Roll of Honour Story from the Battle of Fromelles, the first major battle fought by Australian troops on the Western Front. I am honoured to be joining you here to commemorate the courage and sacrifice of the soldiers who fought in this great Battle.
I would like to thank the Returned and Services League for inviting me to this special service. As the sun goes down over this beautiful setting, we are moved by the Flame of Remembrance within the Pool of Reflection.
In this peaceful setting, and in the shadow of the State War Memorial, we reflect on the sacrifice of those men and women that fought for freedom.
I am here with a group of Timorese veterans from our 24 year struggle for self-determination. This is now the third year that a delegation of Timorese veterans has come to Australia to commemorate ANZAC Day and build the bonds of friendships with our comrades from across the sea.
I am particularly pleased that this year, I am here in Perth for ANZAC Day to pay my respects at the rising of the sun and march together with your veterans.
The RSL, and its branches across Australia, have shown us great support and solidarity. The RSL is helping us to build a national organisation for Timorese veterans. We give special thanks to the Western Australian Branch of the RSL for their solidarity, support and their warm welcome.
We have come to Perth to honour the sacrifice of Australian soldiers who fought for freedom in our region and around the world. The Timorese know well the bravery and sacrifice of your soldiers because of our shared military history.
In the Second World War, around 300 Australian soldiers fought in the mountains and valleys of our country. They held down over 10,000 Japanese troops for almost a year.
These Australians were remarkable men. But they would have been lost without the support of the Timorese who risked their lives to provide food and shelter, carry supplies and act as guides and scouts.
Many of the Australian soldiers who were supported by the Timorese later devoted their lives to repaying this ‘debt of honour’ to our people. Today, we also honour these wonderful Australians.
The Timorese also know of the bravery of Australian soldiers from both the INTERFET and the International Stabilisation Force deployments to Timor-Leste. At our time of need, in both 1999 and in 2006, Australia stood with us to help secure peace in our country. Timor-Leste has now enjoyed many years of peace and we share this success with the soldiers from Australia and New Zealand.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In Timor-Leste we owe our freedom to our Timorese veterans. Like Australian soldiers of war, our veterans faced the horror of the battlefield.
Let me end by saying that we must remember not only our fallen comrades, but the hardship and inhumanity of war.
We must never forget the brutality and the despair of war and its impact on soldiers and their families. It is only through remembering the horror of war that we can truly understand the importance of peace.
I wish Australia the best in its ANZAC commemorations and thank you for allowing me to speak today on behalf of the Timorese veterans. It is a special honour.
Thank you very much.