The Veterans activated in Australia’s National Capital
The arrival at Canberra airport was characterized by hugs and handshakes as the Canberra based delegation and Major General Lere Anan Timur met the incoming travelling delegation. Plenty of old friends here reconnecting with the Canberra contingent kitted out in their warm winter clothing. A brisk 15 degrees with light winds outside the terminal meant we were experiencing unusually cool temperatures for most visitors from Timor-Leste!
First port of call after settling into the hotel was a meeting at the National Headquarters of the Returned Services League with the Deputy National President Mr. Terry Meeham, National CEO Ms. Sam Jakeman and NSW CEO Mr. Chris Perrin. These three made the delegation feel so much at home at RSL headquarters with their warm welcome, setting the tone for a highly productive meeting with a lot of interaction amongst all participating.
The National RSL expressed their support of the Timor-Leste veterans in their action to set up an umbrella structure to serve the needs of their fellow veterans. They also expressed their confidence in Chris Perrin of the NSW Branch as the main focal point in the cooperation between the Australian and Timor-Leste group. Chris who has already built a relationship with several of the veterans over the last 12 months spoke from the heart about the honour it was for him to visit Timor-Leste last year and to pay his respects at the memorials in and around Dili.
This was a meeting of friends and quickly became very open and constructive with questions on structure, funding and particular ideas for Timor-Leste. The translations of former CAC Commissioner Aderito de Jesus were quick and the meeting fell into a good rhythm. After an exchange of gifts and afternoon tea all of the delegation were so much at home they did not want to leave the RSLs National HQ. This speaks very highly of the rapport that has been established between the RSL and the Timor-Leste Veterans over the last 12 months.
But the delegation did have to leave because Timor-Leste was due to lay a wreath at the Last Post Ceremony occurring at the Australian War Memorial at sunset. What a touching and informative time this was. The Veterans were particularly impressed by the large number of school children gathered at the Memorial and participating in the service. Also they appreciated the way the personal story told of a lost Australian sailor, Able Seaman Arthur Charles Webb, connected with people during the short ceremony. After the story, and the placing of wreaths by the Webb family, Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão and Major General Lere Anan Timur carried a large wreath on behalf of Timor-Leste to the foot of the Pool of Reflection, placing it with great care as a tribute to all of the Australians lost at war. Their manner showed great respect and dignity, the sincerity behind this gesture of Timor-Leste was clearly understood by the crowd gathered.
The first day in the national capital finished with a small reception near the War Memorial hosted by the RSL where Minister Gusmão spoke briefly about the aims of the visit to Australia. This was a fitting end to the day amongst friends.