Australia’s relationship with Timor Leste is in the news a bit at the moment. I want to tell you about a group of people on Sydney’s Northern Beaches who are doing their utmost to repay some of the debt we Australians owe the Timorese for their protection of our troops from the Japanese during WW2. Over 40,000 Timorese were slaughtered as a result of taking care of our stranded Aussie soldiers. At the time Australia promised them protection and friendship – we have failed in these promises over and over again. In 1975 we sat back and watched as the Indonesians invaded. During the 25 years of occupation over 200,000 Timorese perished. It was not until General Cosgrove led INTERFET into Dili in September 99 that we moved in any way to help these people – our neighbours, less than one hour’s flight from Darwin.
I served there as an Intelligence Officer in 99 (I received the call to deploy in the middle of my weddingreception). Since transferring from the permanent ADF to the reserve forces I have been involved in the Community Group, Pittwater Friends of Soibada. It is a very eclectic mix of dedicated volunteers who are assisting the people in the small mountain village of Soibada to regain the dignity lost during the occupation with sustainable development projects of all types – as requested by the local community. On Australia Day I was awarded an OAM – recognition I consider should really go to these wonderful people giving of their hearts and time to help change the future for our friends in Timor. The community of the Northern Beaches has helped us wholeheartedly. We have a long way to go. I am embarrassed by this award but perhaps it can help the people of Soibada have a more promising future.
Photo source: http://www.pittwaterfriendsofsoibada.org.au/
We have a variety of projects in the village. Further information can be found at the links below. A teenage girl from Soibada Orphanage will begin studying at Pittwater House School in Sydney next week. She plans to be a doctor and go back to help her people. Her father was an independence guerrilla fighter during the war. I have attached a document with a bit of her story.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3M-I10i9Yg Soibada Video (featuring Tania)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_1fPJdFpKM Soibada Video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0v74BMEnA0 TEDx Talk