April Newsletter 2019

Dear Friends

Here at the VCA office we are following-up a  most successful TA8 program, have completed Selection Boards for TA9 and 10 and undergoing preparations for those programs, and most immediately are preparing to host 9 Timorese veterans who will join us from 21- 28 April.

TA8 was fantastic. The evaluation report showed significant health and well being improvement in all participants.

We had the most amazing celebratory reception in the remote village of Aidabasalala, where in June 2000, veteran Greg Murty’s section was surprised in a massive attack at 0200hrs and Greg,  alone on sentry, miraculously survived.

Greg was traumatized by that and several other incidents, but his visit back there with wife, Belinda, achieved a significant healing for both of them.

Michael Stone got a great surprise there to find his local guide from operations in 1999, Jose Marsal, had give his son a baptismal name of Stone in honour of Michael and had made him his Godparent!

Throughout the trip many learnings were embraced and we celebrated National Veterans Day  in Dili with a Parade, street march,  concert and lunch.  A more detailed report is attached here…..

Katherine Lowe has also given us  reflection ….. (see below)

Preparations are now underway to host 9 Timorese Veterans over Anzac week.

A detailed program is here… but we would particularly welcome VCA members to come to lunch on Tuesday 23 Apr at Mates4mates,  Dawn service at Cenotaph 0428, Mass at St Stephens Cathedral 0800 and march as a contingent with the Timorese at 1000.

A final farewell function will be  BYO lunch in the Roma St parkland at 1220 on Sat 27 April.

Please let us know by return email if you can make any of these functions.

Rob Schreuder is well advanced in leading the development of Riak Retreat at Same. He, Bill Fields and Michael Stone are doing a recon in May and our TA9 Program will spend several days there doing construction work.

TA10 will coincide with the 20th anniversary of INTERFET and a big program in Dili is planned as well as field trips to Same and Bobonaro  District. Michael Stone has been instrumental in guiding the Timorese veterans and government in planning this event.

Day-to-day our team field many requests for support and information.

Big thanks must go to Col, Wayne, Michael S, Michael A , Michael R,  Rowena and Candice, for your regular work, and to Arthur Davis, John Barletta, Chris Hully, Simon Wilson, Ian Marshall and Bob Breen for your periodic inputs.

As usual Anzac Day and Easter are close by. The message is the same from both events.

Darkness can turn to Light, Sadness can be replaced with Joy, Despair can be relieved with Hope.

Two key things can make this happen . Love God and love our neighbours.

We promote healing, health and well being not just for ourselves, but for all who are struggling. Our ultimate hope for all Veterans engaging with us, is that they will become pastoral carers too.

So, may the Light of Christ brighten your Easter!


Next Meetings for your Diary :

  • Sat 8 June 19: Gathering (Pre- TA9) all welcome. (Mates  4 Mates Milton).
  • 23 Jun-3 July 19 :(TA9:  Timor-Leste)
  • Sat 17 Aug 19: Gathering at M4M (all welcome.) TA9 & TA10
  • 13-25 Sept 19: (TA10 Timor- Leste)
  • Sat 2 Nov 19:  AGM and Christmas party at Mates 4 Mates

May God bless you all

Your Padre,

Gary Stone

Reflections of Timor
Martyn Wright & Kath Lowe

Having attended DVA approved courses held in health care facilities previously, I was a little skeptical about Timor Awakening’s ability to assist in my PTS, Depression and Anxiety Management given it was primarily my time in Timor-Leste that I long to forget, because it is the root cause of many of my challenges today.

However, I had watched some of my friends and their partners benefit greatly from the process, so I decided to make further enquiries. I soon found out that my partner, Kath, could also attend, and so I progressed my application thinking, if nothing else, she would gain from the experience and be able to relate to areas and situations in the future if she saw Timor-Leste firsthand.

Kath’s words below will speak to her experience, but from my perspective Timor Awakening has done more in 12 days than many other organisations have done for me over the last 20 years. When I reflect on why, I think one of the main things that sets this program apart from others is that it is carried out in Timor-Leste. It is very rare that a soldier can go back to a land they deployed to and see such a positive change, but that is what this program offers. I was really struck by the love, peace, forgiveness and respect that the Timorese offered us, notwithstanding Australia’s less than spotless history and the oppression the Timorese endured at the hands of the Indonesians for so long. The second thing that sets this program apart is that it is primarily conducted by ex serving personnel, who understood my headspace better than any non-military psychologist or psychiatrist ever has. I will now pass over to Kath for her to take on this journey.

When Martyn asked me to come on this journey with him, I was a little skeptical about the benefit in me being involved, but I can now see the positive impact it has had for him and our relationship. Being able to see the areas he was deployed to and to understand what he and other defence force personnel endured has really opened my eyes up to the torment he has struggled with over the last 20 years.

Having a greater understanding of the destruction, pain and sorrow that the Timorese endured in the lead up to INTERFET and the positive steps that the Timorese have taken over the last 20 years to forgive and to look forward to the light in the future rather than to dwell in the darkness of the past has also really helped us both.

It has helped Martyn by replacing the horrendous images he had in his mind from 1999 with new positive images and it helped me to see that there is a positive way forward if we are prepared to take it.

The other thing I was anxious about when we signed up to the program is the length of time we would be away, but I soon realised that this was a key part of the healing process and a quick trip would not have allowed Martyn or I to really process things and to affect real change in our lives, both individually and as a couple.

The last thing I would say about the program is that Mick, Garry, Rowena, Arthur and Michael A were incredibly supportive and understanding and so too were the other members of the group. As a partner of a veteran I expected to be sitting on the side lines for most of the tour, but that wasn’t the case. All the partners were treated as individuals with their own journeys to traverse over the tour, which really sets this program apart. The comradery that we built up over the 12 days was also incredibly powerful and we have established relationships that I think will last a long time into the future.

Being around other ex-defence force personnel also helped me understand a number of
Martyn’s traits.

The last thing we would both like to say is thank you to Mick, Garry and the other Timor Awakening staff and supporters for allowing us to be part of Timor Awakening 08. This has been an incredible experience for both of us and one we hope will have a positive lasting effect on our lives going forward.



Categories :

Leave a Reply