29 Australians and 20 Timorese Veterans completed a joint rehabilitation experience in Timor from 17-28 July 2016.
From touchdown at Dili airport, through 960 km of travel in rural areas, and till takeoff 11 days later, we were overwhelmed by the hospitality of the Timorese.
Hundreds of Timorese veterans turned out in every District, and massive community welcoming ceremonies and celebrations every day.
Our purpose had been to improve the health of the veterans and their families by having a communal lived experience reflecting on the resilience and rehabilitation demonstrated by the Timorese and shared reflections amongst ourselves.
End of tour evaluations confirmed we achieved our aim.
“I have developed an overwhelming sense of contentment.”
“The whole experience was invigorating, and Im now at peace.”
“I’ve established a firm base for future growth. I’m now proud of what I’ve done. I’ve also made peace with the Indonesians.”
“Extremely beneficial. A cleansing emotional journey towards achieving identified objectives in my new personal health and wellbeing plan.”
What initially began as a discrete ex-service activity, has grown into an international relations success for our two nations. Former President Jose Ramos Horta hosted us at his residence. Prime Minister Rui De Arujo has written a letter of thanks to RSL Australia asking for the programme to continue and expand, and the ADF and AFP have expressed desire to participate.
Participants were daily introduced by first hand witnesses to the horrors of the Timorese experiences under Japanese and Indonesian occupation, but shared also their amazing abilty to endure and forgive.
Australian veterans got to visit the many places they had served and see the remarkable improvements made, and a highlight for many was to cross the border near Balibo and experience reconciliation with the Indonesian Police and Military.
A full briefing on the experience for anyone interested will be provided at Kookaburra Café Paddington on Sunday 14 Aug with dinner at 6 pm and briefing at 7 pm.
A workshop for TA participants will be held from 10-2pm on Sat 27 Aug at Mates4Mates new facility at Douglas St Milton.