The 30th of August marked the 20th anniversary of the vote for independence by the people of East Timor. A period of shocking violence by the paramilitaries and the Indonesian military followed that vote. Thousands took to the streets of our capitals, demanding Australian military intervention. On this anniversary in Dili, the Australian Council of Trade Unions was rewarded the country's highest honour, the Medal of East Timor, for the solidarity work it did to support the intervention. Congratulations. Next week marks the 20th anniversary of the arrival of the INTERFET force in East Timor. We owe a debt of gratitude to those brave men and women of Australia who answered the call to bring peace to East Timor, and to the Howard government for enabling it to happen. Australia, through our military cooperation program, still has over 40 dedicated personnel in country helping to train and professionalise the East Timor armed forces.
Timor-Leste has survived many challenges in its short life, including civil unrest in 2006 and dubious Australian tactics in the long maritime boundary negotiations. Now, with the agreement of a much fairer maritime boundary and more oil and gas income as a result, Timor-Leste is preparing for the next stage of nation-building. Australian civil society organisations, as well as UNAMET, INTERFET and Federal Police members should look back with great pride on what they have done to help achieve in East Timor.Share Tweet