Telling: East Timor, Personal Testimonies, 1942-1992

Telling: East Timor, Personal Testimonies, 1942-1992

Telling: East Timor, Personal Testimonies, 1942-1992

Telling: East Timor, Personal Testimonies, 1942-1992


Recollections of both Australians and Timorese of WWII, the 30 years of peace under the Portuguese, and the Indonesian invasion. The author collected the oral histories over 10 years to supplement and document broader political histories. Includes a chronology, references and an index. The foreword is by Justice Michael Kirby.


The Timorese call their country Timor Leste (East Timor in Portuguese). All over Australia, in even the smallest country towns, is a memorial inscribed 'Lest We Forget. But for the last fifty years we have forgotten the island we share so much with: climate and vegetation, a Second World War history. We forget and ignore that what are nightmares to us--invasion and occupation by Japanese then Javanese--were, and are, their reality.

Timor is a long, narrow island (about half the size of Tasmania) with a spine of high mountains. The seas on the north coast are usually tranquil while those on the south are rough. Only 620 kilometres from Darwin, Timor shares much of the climate of Northern Australia, with its long dry season and deluge in the Wet. The vegetation is also similar. Australians notice eucalypts, she-oaks and open grassland, and where there is jungle it is mostly dry.

Chinese traders had been coming to Timor for sandalwood since the 1400s at least. The Portuguese established trading posts and religious missions in the eastern and western parts of the island in the mid-sixteenth century. Western Timor was taken over by the Dutch from the 1640s, but the eastern part remained Portuguese. Because of rivalry between the Dutch and Portuguese and their different colonial philosophies, for four centuries the two halves of Timor had distinctly different colonial experiences.

Racism was uncommon in the Portuguese colony, as was accessible resettlement along roads, and local power and population structures were left largely intact.

The Timorese are mountain-dwelling people, preferring the high . . .

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