Posted on: March 25, 2024 Posted by: Sue Gilbey Comments: 0

Andy Alcock

Listen to Andy Alcock’s 2 part fascinating order of events and below is a very comprehensive time frame of events, put together by Andy.

The photograph is From the left: Donald Barnes (final treasurer), Rosemary McKay (final chairperson), Dr Richie Gun (longest serving chairperson & final secretary) & Andy Alcock (final information officer).

The woman in the pink jumper on the right of the photo, but to the left of me is Miriam Tonkin – our oldest member at 95. BTW Miriam assisted the artists in the production of our banner on the wall behind.

East Timor/Timor-Leste

  • After 2 years in Malaysia, I returned to Australia in late 1974 as Indonesia (RI)) was beginning to harass ET after Portugal’s Carnation Revolution that gave the people’s of all former Portuguese colonies their independence


  • I had got involved in Chilean solidarity in early 1975 and in July of that year, Bob Hanney – who was the longest serving secretary of Campaign for an Independent East Timor (CIET SA) – enlisted me into being a member of  CIET SA and not long afterward I was appointed as information officer
  • I wrote my first article re ET for an independent left magazine Retrieval & compared what might happen in ET with what happened in West Papua (WP) in 1969 Indonesia’s Act of Free Choice which the WPapuans called the Act of No Choice when the UN endorsed the Indonesian military (TNI) controlled very flawed, intimidatory & violent “referendum” that confirmed RI control over WP. There was nothing free about it at all!

David Bradbury – Australian left filmmaker did a documentary about this called the Act of No Choice

 CIET SA arranged information tables and small demonstrations about the impending invasion.

Then on 16.10.1975, the TNI during an incursion in the ET town of Balibo massacred  5 Australian -based media workers who were later known as the Balibo 5

  • On 7.12.1975, Indonesia carried out its full scale invasion  during which many civilians were wiped out – including Roger East – another Australian journalist
  • In 1976, CIET SA purchased the film Island of Fear Island of Hope – an Algerian solidarity film which highlighted the TNI initial sorties carried out in ET which did not receive much media coverage and footage of the final report moving report of Greg Shackleton – one of the Balibo 5.
  • Denis Freney (DF) – the founder of CIET groups in Australia, a Tribune journalist, author and peace and solidarity activist held the first East Timor Activists Conference in Melbourne. These conferences were held annually until an Adelaide conference in 1992 and then they were held every 2 years until 1996 and thereafter until 1999, the Coalition for a Free ET met via phone conferences paid for by the office of former senator Natasha Stott Despoja
  • During the early days of the occupation, it was difficult to get info about what was happening in ET because the RI closed it off from the outside world.

DF published a broadsheet East Timor News (ETN)  – the publication of the East Timor News Agency  which he founded with Roger East before he went on his visit to ET. DF also coordinated a radio contact with the ET resistance group FRETILIN which operated from the NT. Brian Manning – a Darwin wharfie, CPA member and Aboriginal solidarity activist – had a radio receiver installed in his backyard and coordinated volunteers from around the country to operate a two-way set from the remote parts of the NT. It had to be moved around because the Australian Commonwealth Police (ACP) had been given orders to confiscate it.

Another ET solidarity activist who worked on the radio was Rob Wesley-Smith originally from Adelaide.

I purchased 2 of the radios after the original sets were confiscated by the ACP and enlisted John Wishart – Greens organiser – and Dave Arkins – now secretary of the AWPA SA – to be volunteers.

Dr Helen Hill wrote a booklet The Timor Story in 1976 which gave much badly needed background info on ET.

(91) The Timor Story | Helen Hill –

 Helen was involved with the Timor Information Service (TIS) with John Waddingham. Helen later wrote a book about FRETILIN and spent many years in Timor-Leste (TH) after independence at the University of T-L. John edited the TIS which continued after the ATN broadsheets stopped, was an adviser to former senator Gordon McIntosh – a very outspoken supporter oh ET independence and with his partner – Cecily Gilbert – founded the  Clearing House for Archival Records on Timor (CHART), which has helped preserve ET’s history.

In 1978, Jill Jolliffe’s book East Timor : nationalism and colonialism was published. This was a very important work that explored the history of colonialism in East Timor, the Japanese control during WW2 and the events leading up to the TNI invasion.

  • Between 1975 & 1989, the TNI maintained a reign of terror and committed genocide, human rights violations and intimidation of the ETese

CIET SA organised numerous public meetings, demonstrations, pickets, book launches, film screenings, dances and annual dinners and printed pamphlets, wrote articles, letters to the editor

The key dates for rallies and other events were:

  • 20 May – formation of FRETILIN
  • -17 August – RI Independence Day
  • 16 October – Balibo Day
  • 28 November – anniversary of the declaration of ET’s independence (28.11.1975)
  • 7 December  – anniversary of the TNI full scale invasion (7.12.1975)
  • In 1989, Pope John Paul 2 made a visit to Indonesia ET and refused to acknowledge the suffering of the ET people

At an open air mass at Taci Tolu – a place of mass graves of victims of the TNI – many ETese young people showed incredible courage to demonstrate their desire to be independent from the RI.

The Indonesian dictatorship was forced to allow people from outside to visit ET including the media and  Shirley Shackleton – the widow of Greg of the Balibo 5 fame. Shirley was a very strong supporter of ETese independence  and used her influence to speak to the media in Australia and overseas.

At dinner at the Turismo Hotel, Dili. She noticed General Benny Murdani – the TNI commander of the original invasion and demanded to know what he had done with her husband’s body!

  • On 12.11.1991, the TNI opened fire on a funeral procession at the Santa Cruz Cemetery near Dili that had become an independence protest. At least 271 people were killed and the TNI carried out follow-up murders of witnesses. Unfortunately for them, a British filmmaker – Max Stahl – and 2 American journalists – Amy Goodman and Alan Nairne – were there. Max was able to get the film out of ET and after being bashed and having their lives threatened by TNI personnel, Amy Goodman and Alan Nairne flew to Hong Kong where they broke the story to the world. This crime became known as the Santa Cruz Massacre.
  • In March 1992, the Portuguese ET solidarity movement organised a peace protest- the Missao Paz em Timor – a  cruise to highlight  the Santa Cruz Massacre. They hired a vehicle ferry – the Lusitania Expresso – to take about 120 Timor solidarity activists from 25 countries to sail from Darwin to Dili  with the intention of laying wreathes at the Santa Cruz Cemetery.

I was one of the protesters involved and shared a cabin with Gordon McIntosh – the WA senator – and Jack Goodman – a WA ET solidarity supporter who had served with the AIF  in Portuguese Timor  during WW2. Other Australians included Shirley Shackleton, Jean McLean – then an ALP politician in the Victorian Parliament and several unionists and journalists.

The Indonesian Navy sent 9 naval vessels to intercept the Lusitania Expresso to prevent it “invading” ET. The ship was forced to turn around and there was a huge rally outside of the RI Consulate in Darwin.  We received much international media coverage.

Aboard the Timor peace ship | Green Left

East Timor Peace Mission, a documentary by Geneviève Appleton on Vimeo

  • In November 1992, the TNI managed to capture the very elusive  Supreme Commander of FALINTIL  – Xanana Gusmao. After a trial, he was incarcerated in Cipinang Prison in Jakarta.

In 1996, Filipino solidarity activists organised an Asian Pacific Conference on ET (APCET) in Kuala Lumpur. I was a delegate to this conference along with about 40 overseas nationals including Abel Guterres – an ET refugee in Australia who had been involved with FRETILIN, the Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) and the ET Relief Agency (ETRA) and was later to become a T-L ambassador to Australia and Brunei, Bishop Hilton Deakin – a former Catholic Bishop of Melbourne and Helder da Costa – then a PhD student in economics at Adelaide Uni and later an important figure at the University of T-L, a senior public servant and the General Secretary of the Group of 7+ (g7+ ) Secretariat – a group of developing nations,  Helen Todd – the NZ mother of Kamal Hamadbaj – an OXFAM employee slain by, the TNI at Santa Cruz, a Jesuit bishop from Japan and a Protestant bishop from the Philippines etc.

The conference was invaded by thugs from the youth sections of the Malaysian government coalition parties. The police came and didn’t arrest the conference invaders, but the APCET 1996 delegates were all arrested, detained and the overseas participants were deported!

Thirteen years later, the Malaysian High Court said the police had acted inappropriately and ordered compensation to be paid to the Malaysian organisers who had been detained.

asa280121996en.pdf (

Conference on East Timor attacked | Green Left

Malaysian APCET activists win E.Timor suit (

Apcet II hearing told of ‘dark side of justice’ (

 In 1996, Jose Ramos Horta – then the foreign minister for the ET government and the current T-L president – and Bishop Carlos Belo were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work to bring peace to ET. This further cast light on the RI’s brutal occupation of ET.

In 1997, through the cooperation of the Coalition for a free ET and Agio Pareira – then of the CNRT and ETRA and now current president of T-L’s Council of Ministers, a tour to Australia was arranged for Jose and CIET SA helped organise a public meeting of about 500 people in the former Maughan Church, Franklin St and with the cooperation of Fr Rob Egar – later a Monsignor, the Noarlunga Catholic Parish and Sister Janet Mead’s Romero and Rock Mass Community, a very successful and joyous mass at the Francis Xavier Cathedral attended by several hundreds of  people .

Dr Bernice Pfitzner – Liberal MLC, Sandra Kanck – Democrats MLC and Terry Roberts -ALP MLC  and all supporters of ET, hosted a reception for Jose at the Old Parliament House because former premier – John Olsen – refused to meet him or to have an official reception for him.

  • 1998 saw the downfall of the Suharto dictatorship  as a result of the Asian economic crisis of that year.

The TNI had not been able to defeat FALINTIL and the continued fight to suppress it was causing a huge drain on the RI’s economy. New president Habibie decided to offer the ETese and opportunity to be  a self administered territory of the RI.

  • In 1999, the UN organised a referendum to allow the ETese to decide their own political future. It was  a very dangerous undertaking for the UN staff who participated and pro-independence ETese because – largely thanks to the urging of then Australian PM – John Howard – and foreign minister – Alaxender Downer – the TNI and the Indonesian police POLRI  were allowed to supervise the security. The TNI and POLRI had established militia groups of ETese traitors and armed them. They terrorised pro-independence supporters and UN staff before the referendum and after 78% of the people voted for full independence.

CIET SA held a celebratory rally in Rundle Mall with supporter and the ET diaspora.

However the joy was short-lived because the TNI and its militias went on a mass killing and destruction campaign. About 2000 more ETese died and 80% of the nation’s infrastructure was destroyed.

After the referendum, CIET SA organised several mass rallies and lobbied Downer to call for a peace-keeping mission. At the time he was not very interested.

Two of the rallies had about 1000 people unlike the very small numbers at previous rallies during the previous 23 years.

Thin to stop the continued killing by the TNI, Bill Clinton – the US president – supported a UN peace-keeping force INTERFET led by Australia to enter to            stop the killing and the destruction, to ease the TNI murderers out and to restore peace. He also halted all US military sales and aid to the RI. Howard &       Downer followed suit.


The INTERFET force under the command of Major General Peter Cosgrove arrived in ET on 22.9.1999 and fairly quickly eased the TNI out and disarmed             the militias.

Later in the year, Xanana Gusmao – the imprisoned Supreme Commander of FALINTIL – was released from Cipinang Prison in Jakarta and spent a day in Melbourne at 5 different functions all of which I attended. I managed to meet him and exchange hugs with the then hero and most popular person in ET

  • CIET SA along with other ACFET solidarity groups and service organisations worked to send urgently needed materials to ET after the TNI left
  • My first visit to ET was in2000 to attend another APCET Conference which was held in Baucau – ET’s second largest town

Before the conference began, we were taken to several towns on the western end of ET and stayed at Maliana. We met with local leaders & FALINTIL veterans to discuss the problems they were facing to report back at the conference.

And there was a lot of devastation across the country.

The conference was a great celebration despite the problems being faced by the ETese. Bishop Hilton Deakin, Agio Pereira and Carmel Budiardjo – the founder of TAPOL who had spoken at 2 CIETS SA public meetings in Adelaide – were amongst the many people who attended.

  • On 20 May 2002, the ETese celebrated their independence and officially became the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste DRET or Timor-Leste

6 members of the CIET SA Committee attended the festivities which were very happy occasions, but tinged with sadness because the TNI occupation had wiped out about 1/3 of the population.

The main ceremony was held at Taci Tolu and was attended by Kofi Anan – the UN Secretary General, Megawarti Sukarnoputri – the RI president, Shirley Shackleton, Bishop Hilton Deakin, John Howard etc. Thousands attended.

The music for a preceding mass and the celebration  had been prepared by Professor Simao Barreto – the father of David/aka Joaquim and Zaida and the former husband of Dr Rosa Joaquim. David & Rosa were members of the CIET SA Committee for a number of years

The Guardian (


  • 2000 – 2023

CIET SA then changed its name to the Australia East Timor Friendship Association or AETFA SA and remained active in advocating for T-L, raising money for various aid projects there and countering attempts by the Howard governments to steal T-L’s resources in the Timor Sea and prevent a midline maritime boundary in the Timor Sea from being established between Australia & T-L.

Later, the LNP government tried to imprison Witness K and Bernard Collaery who had helped thwart the Howard government’s intentions regarding the Timor Sea resources by falsely claiming that they had violated security laws. Witness K was an ASIS operative who was ordered to bug T-L government meeting rooms to bug T-L leaders’ discussions about the deal that Howard & Downer tried to bully them into. He reported this action as wrong.

Bernard Collaery is a lawyer who represented Witness K, but also was a key member of the T-L’s legal team at the International Permanent Court of Arbitration that finally established the midline maritime boundary and gave T-L greater access to their resources.

The Albanese government after a year in office dropped the charges against Collaery & Witness K was given a suspended sentence after declaring himself guilty.

AETFA SA was affiliated with the East Timor Justice Forum and the Alliance Against Political Prosecutions.

Throughout these years AETFA SA was active :

*Organised film nights in cooperation with SA Unions, the Working Women’s Centre SA (WWC SA) and Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA SA to raise money for the WWC T-L which was established with the assistance of the WWC SA 40th anniversary dinner

*Rallies to support Witness K & Collaery

Bernard Collaery: The spy case that ignited an Australian secrecy row – BBC News

*Hosted 5 FALINTIL veterans who visited Adelaide for the 2015 ANZAC Day March as guests of the RSL. Several other centres hosted FALINTIL veterans and Xanana Gusmao led the group who participated in the Sydney march.

Later, we  held a CIET SA/AETFA SA 40th anniversary dinner

*in 2017, held a screening of the documentary Time to Draw the Line to promote the Timor Sea issue

*in 2020, we organised a book launch of Bernard Collaery’s book Oil Under Troubled Water – Australia’s Timor Sea Intrigue – which had to be cancelled because of the COVID 19 pandemic

  • However, when he came to speak at Adelaide’s 2022 Writers’ Week, AETFA SA organised a webinar as well which also involved  then SA senator  Rex Patrick and soon to be Greens senator Professor Barbara Pocock.

*Participated in the CPSU Community Lottery to raise money for projects in T-L, held book stalls and sold T-L coffee

West Papua

  • In 1977, I met Jack Rumere – a former OPM (Organisasi Papua Merdeka) resistance fighter – at a national conference at which I was a resource person.

Jack suggested that I go to WP from PNG.

I did go to PNG, but I did not have sufficient time to enter WP because of work commitments.

However, I stayed in a village at Weewak in the NW of PNG established by WP refugees . They were interested in the Timor struggle & I was interested in their struggle against the same enemy.

I recorded some of their resistance songs and a solidarity message they sent to FRETILIN which were played over the NT/ET radio contact & to progressive Indonesians by Denis Freney and they reciprocated.

In Port Morseby, I was met by Rex Rumakiek – an OPM member and WP freedom activist who urged me to promote their struggle in Australia..

When I returned to Australia, I proposed that CIET SA also promote the WP cause with the ET one as they were both occupied by the TNI and I joined a WP solidarity  group based in Melbourne.

  • In 1987, CIET SA hosted a visit to Adelaide at the urging of Bev and Ron Hall of Jakob Prai – a former OPM resistance commander exiled in Sweden.

We managed to scrape the money together to send them by bus to other centres – Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne & Hobart. Bob Brown – then the Greens member in the Tasmanian Parliament gave us a loan of $500. The Hobart ET Committee kindly repaid this later through a fundraiser.

Jacob spoke at a traditional WP underground BBQ at St Peters and he was interviewed by the local media.

  • When the AWPA SA was formed, a number of AETFA SA committee members and Rosemary McKay – who also became the chairperson of AETFA SA became the chair of AWPA also.

The 2 groups have worked together on many events over the years; eg

  • a seminar on WP human rights at the Uni of SA with the key speaker being former Greens senator – Dr Richard Di Natale
  • A picket outside the 2018 ALP Federal Conference in Adelaide
  • A screening of David Bradbury’s filmNo Act of Choice – about the RI’s bogus 1969 referendum in WP.   Unfortunately, this had to be cancelled because of the COVID 19 pandemic.