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Andrew McNaughtan Memorial lecture 2010 by Jude Conway

Andrew McNaughtan Memorial lecture 2010 by Jude Conway

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Published by Jude Conway
The lecture is about how became involved in activism for East Timor and eventually published Step by Step: Women of East Timor with stories from some of the amazing Timorese women
The lecture is about how became involved in activism for East Timor and eventually published Step by Step: Women of East Timor with stories from some of the amazing Timorese women

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Categories:Types, Speeches
Published by: Jude Conway on Jul 31, 2012
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1
Andrew McNaughtan Memorial Lecture 12 February 2010
Notes from guest speaker Jude ConwayHow did a woman from Newcastle like me get involved in the Timor cause and compile a
book of Timorese women’s stories
[Step by Step: Women of East Timor, Stories of resistance and Survival]?It all started when I ran away from home in winter 1991, it was a mid-life crisis I guess. Ireached Darwin, liked it and stayed for 15 years. I met a lot of activists at the EnvironmentCentre and after the Santa Cruz massacre in November 1991 I was invited to a protest rallywhich morphed into a 3-week 24 hour-a-day protest at the Indonesian consulate. Supportersstopping by regularly, set up Australians For a Free East Timor (AFFET) and working withthe long-time activist Rob Wesley-Smith. Andy McNaughtan came to town round
93 and joined our rag-tag but highly motivated group.I went on my first trip to East Timor in 1995, it is only a one-hour flight from Darwin, andexperienced their fear of the Indonesian military
 –
no one out after dark, no talking toforeigners, meeting a resistance leader to give him money and medicines in a shedsurrounded by his guards and a guard dog.When Andy moved back to Sydney in 1996 he asked me to run his Darwin house as an AFFET headquarters. Many actions were planned in that house, and some unforgettableparties.In 1997 I was invited to work as the office manager at the East Timor International SupportCenter,
ETISC
with Juan and Ceu Federer. Andy was our Sydney rep and Informationofficer. Anyone who knew Andy knows that he could give out a lot of information. It was the job of a lifetime. Besides doing office work at ETISC I was also project officer travelling toEast and West Timor, Bali, Java and Thailand. I had some exciting jobs
 –
 
I carried photos of military torture in Timor through Jakarta airport hidden in my pantsso they could be distributed to activists groups.
I helped organise the escape of a Timorese man from Timor via Jakarta, to thePortuguese embassy in Bangkok, after he had secretly passed Indonesian militarystaff figures to Andy which showed they were lying about how many troops they hadin East Timor.
 
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In June 1998 ETISC brought 6 Timorese activists to Darwin, all recommended by Xananafrom his prison cell in Jakarta. The group included the charismatic Laura Abrantes, at thetime working with Caritas Dili. Laura was able to imaginatively use her small Englishvocabulary to evoke the brutality of the Indonesian occupation and affect all her heard her.I had made a bibliography of publications on East Timorese struggle and realised that thevoice of women, who were integral to the resistance, was rarely heard. Most Australiansknew of Ramos-Horta, Xanana and Bishop Belo but, even now, the most well known womanfrom East Timor would be
Xanana’s
 Australian wife, Kirsty Sword Gusmão.The Timorese women I met, like Laura Abrantes and Ceu Federer, were passionate,effective campaigners and I thought that they should be better known. I decided to collectstories to publish as a campaign tool. I started by interviewing Ceu. I gave her an outlineof what I wanted and then let her have her head. I was an inexperienced interviewer andhad to plug many gaps later on. However I enjoyed hearing her anecdotes and evenenjoyed transcribing and typing the story into the computer!!! Her story was put on theETISC website. This was the genesis of the book.In November 1998 I went to Dili to attend a conference organised by women students fromthe university. For the first time in Timor, women spoke publicly about their horrendousexperiences at the hands of the military. A woman told how she had been forced at gunpointto watch her daughter raped. Fellow Darwin activist Sally Anne Watson was there and shedecided to collect accounts of abuse which were published in 1999 in
Buibere: Voice of East Timorese Women.
I contributed an interview, photos and editing advice, under the nameJudy Jonas.Sometimes when I told people I was collecting Timorese
women’s stories they would say‘hasn’t that already been done in
Buibere 
?’ As tho
ugh there could only be one book of 
women’s stories
. Actually every Timorese has a story to tell.This book,
Step by Step 
, is quite different. It has life stories of 13 outspoken women, strongwomen, which describe their daily life and beliefs, as well as the stresses and horrors of theoccupation and the aftermath of the referendum. While I was in Dili I started recordingL
aura’s story and she also arranged for 
Domingas Alves, or Micato,
the founder of women’s
NGO, Fokupers, to tell me her story, which she did
 –
non-stop for 3 hours in Portuguese! I
don’t know any Portuguese and it wasn’t till I read the translation that I knew what she’d
said. Collecting stories in other languages is a challenge.
 
3
 After president Habibie
 
announced in January 1999 that the Timorese people could choosebetween Indonesia and independence, my life became totally involved in the struggle,working at ETISC, attending protests, housing journalists, activists and students on their wayto and from Dili. There was no time to collect stories. I helped Sally Anne finish off 
Buibere 
,and compiled
A Chronology of Indonesian Military-sponsored Militia atrocities in East Timor up to May 1999,
published by ETISC to counteract media reports of a civil war. My name
wasn’t
on it so I could continue to travel to Timor.
 
There was no time for the book while I was in Timor for the referendum from July to earlySeptember 99 when Andy and Sally-Anne and I were charged with
‘political activities whileon a tourist visa’
for having unused legal sample ballot papers on the floor of our car onvoting day. We were deported to Kupang and had the bizarre experience of being in a cafein Kupang with Indonesian intelligence officers when the result of the referendum wasannounced on TV. I saw the look of shock on their faces. They had believed their ownpropaganda.With other activists I set up an NGO in East Timor in early 2000 assisting local NGOs getestablished in the new Aid and UN environment. Our phones did not stop ringing for 2 1/2years. After independence I based myself in Darwin and returned to the idea of collecting stories.But to be able to meet with the women when I was in Timor was always a challenge becauseall the women were super busy with family and work commitments, trips overseas etc. Thiswas symptomatic of the kind of women they are and the needs of a new developing nation. It
is easy to say ‘yes I will tell my story’ but then not have the hours to give.
For example Laura has such a vivid memory that after talking for a couple of hours, and stilla long way to go with her story, she would get tired and annoyed with the imposition on her time when Fokupers was being overwhelmed with supporting traumatised women anddealing with a constant stream of visitors. It was only when she took a draft transcript hometo check and her family were fascinated with her memories that she became moreenthusiastic.The Timorese transcribers took a lot longer than I anticipated. One took months before he
admitted that Micato’s
Portuguese was too difficult for him so then I had to find another transcriber who could speak fluent Portuguese. Language difficulties were ever present but

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