My involvement in the struggle for East Timor's Independence and some of the braveTimorese women I met along the way
Jessie Street National Women’s Library Lunch Hour Talk
- Sydney16 August 2012
Oh Timor, a country close to my heart. A tiny nation of one million people who defeated themighty Indonesia - 220 million people and for many years a rapidly expanding economyunder President Suharto favoured by western nations with dollars in their eyes. How didtiny Timor-Leste manage to achieve their dream of independence? Many factors of coursebut the bedrock was the Timorese women and men of bravery and steelydetermination with the gift of telling their stories about the violations of theIndonesian occupation, and their belief in magic.In this talk I will be reading extracts from
Step by Step: Women of East Timor,Stories of Resistance and Survival
My story starts in 1975 in PortugueseEast Timor. At this time East Timor in its innocence knewnothing of the ravages soon to be inflicted. It was a sleepy little colonialisland, with whitewashed buildings, and drinkable water from every tap,
that everyone back then took for granted.”
- Baucau 1975:
When the Indonesians invaded, my fathermade a plan to run to the jungle, so carrying sleeping mats, clothes andcorn powder, we left Baucau. I was fourteen and my brothers weretwelve, ten and nine. We thought it was only our family and a fewothers, but the majority of the population fled to the mountains. Soon
we didn’t have anything to eat, we had to search for food everywhere.
We trekked up and down mountains and crossed rivers looking for wildbeans
… In 1978 we were still in the jungle. My father got sick but there was no medicine to
make him better. The situation did not permit getting any - there was fighting, the area was
not calm, we had to keep moving. As my father was dying he said to me ‘Many people willdie, it is not only me that will die. You mustn’t be sad. Keep resisting strongly, eat tre
e roots,eat wild taro. If you have to, go back to your village so you can live and get self-
For me it all started back in 1991. I had read what is still my favourite book,
by RobynDavidson about her camel ride from Alice Springs to the WA coast.
After years of being asole parent in my hometown of Newcastle, I had itchy feet and would get out a map anddream of escaping to Alice Springs. When my son was nearly 22 so old enough to beindependent, I took leave from my job, packed my Toyota Corolla station wagon and lefthim home alone. This was winter 1991. It was an auspicious time to be travelling north.Most nights on my three-week trip I saw the spectacle of Venus, Jupiter and Mars, and for a
Jessie Street library has 2 copies.