The living memory of Jill Jolliffe, 1945-2022

12 December 2022

Timor-Leste and all those connected with supporting Timor’s dramatic and tragic path from Portuguese colony to independent nation mourn the death of outstanding journalist and author, Jill Jolliffe. Since early 1975, Jill’s tenacity in researching and reporting on Timor’s travails, always underwritten by a fierce belief in justice for the East Timorese, is widely acknowledged and honoured.

Jill Jolliffe’s place in Timor’s history will live on in her writings and in the rich archives she left for access by present and future generations. We seek to remember Jill with this preliminary guide to the documentary and archival record of her work.

East Timor, late 1975: The early days of Jill Jolliffe’s remarkable career. [Photo by Michael Richardson]

Jill Jolliffe began her Timor journey as a member of an Australian union and student delegation to Portuguese East Timor in March 1975. Representing the Australian Union of Students (AUS), her report on the week-long exposure tour reveals her instinctive empathy for the East Timorese.  That bond was strongly evident in all that followed.

Jill Jolliffe’s earliest writing on Timor, April 1975.

Returning to Timor as soon as possible after the short 1975 civil war, Jill Jolliffe launched her long career as a journalist – admitting to this writer late in 1975 that she felt very much a novice but had learned much, especially from experienced journalist Michael Richardson in their weeks reporting from Timor before the invasion.

Jill then combined Timor political activism and journalism in Australia in 1976-78. After publishing her influential first major Timor book in 1978, Jill then moved to Portugal where she spent the next two decades in mainstream journalism as well as investigative research and publishing about Timor. Her Timor focus continued when she lived between Darwin and Timor-Leste after 1999 and a decade later, moved to Melbourne where in 2014 she published her last major work, the personal memoir Run for your life.

Her always productive working life was sadly truncated when she was diagnosed in 2016 with dementia and was moved into a residential care home. Jill’s struggle to accept this development, and the challenges it posed to supporting friends, is movingly illustrated in a 2018 ABC radio program.

Jill Jolliffe – a natural archivist

Since first meeting Jill in late 1975, this writer has known her as a person devoted to preserving documentary records. Her long-time friendship with the late Kevin Sherlock included contributing materials and buying books for his extraordinary Timor collection in Darwin. Thankfully for all of us, Jill assiduously kept and protected her own ever-growing materials accumulated over decades of research and writing.

It is this grand accumulation to which we now devote our attention and give our thanks to Jill Jolliffe.

[John Waddingham, 12 December 2022]

A. Major archive collections

Papers of Jill Jolliffe – National Library of Australia (NLA)

The bulk of Jill’s physical archive is now found at the NLA in Canberra. Jill began sending batches of her archives there in 2009; the largest consignment was arranged by her guardians in 2017.  See the Papers of Jill Jolliffe catalogue record for an overview of the collection. A list of the rich and bewildering scope of Jill’s archive collection in ~100 boxes of material can be seen in the NLA ‘finding aid’ – Guide to the Papers of Jill Jolliffe.

The East Timor Question – Microfiche Collection

During the 1990s Jill aimed to preserve and provide research access to key self-created and collected documents through the commercial production and distribution of microfiche photographic copies. The microfiche sets can be found in a number of libraries internationally (example: WorldCat list). A Portugal-based online database of Timor-Leste’s Resistance Archive and Museum includes a digitised copy of the Guide to The East Timor Question, 1975-1996.

B. Other minor collections

During the 1970s Jill’s early archival instincts saw her deposit small volumes of material at various institutions. They include:

Papers of Jill Jolliffe (NLA): Mainly non-Timor items but includes Fretilin pamphlets and the literacy handbook Rai Timur rai ita nia niang.

Jill Jolliffe Collection (NLA): Audio recordings. Interviews with Francisco Borja da Costa and Jose Martins; recordings of Alarico Fernandes & Xavier do Amaral.

Individual items in the NLA catalogue include: Proclamation of the RDTL Constitution, 1975 (audio); David Scott & Jill Jolliffe at ANU 1976 (audio); Max Stahl & Jill Jolliffe interview with Konis Santana (DVD); Biographical cuttings on Jill Jolliffe (book).

Jill Jolliffe Manuscript collection on East Timor (Library, Australian National University): 117 folders in 12 boxes. Contents description being sought by CHART.

East Timor Collection (Noel Butlin Archives Centre, Australian National University): Includes notes on Francisco Borja da Costa; AAP  newsagency post-civil-war reports filed by Jill Jolliffe and Rick Collins; Street poems and photographs of Coho-bere with notes by Jill Jolliffe.

Falintil soldiers and civilians – Photographs (State Library, Victoria): Includes a widely-used image of Nicolau Lobato in post-civil-war Timor, 1975.

C. In other archives collections

The work and life of Jill Jolliffe will certainly live on in surviving archives of individuals and institutions with whom she engaged. While we expect this section on Jill to expand over time, one significant example is the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) files held at the National Archives of Australia (NAA) in Canberra.

ASIO Files

The intel files on Jill open in early 1968 with her activism against the Vietnam war; the later files focus on her Timor activity and related interactions with other activists like Denis Freney. Three files are available online: Volume 1 1968-70; Volume 3 1972-75 & Volume 4 1975-77. Two other files have not yet been digitised – Volume 2 (1970-72) and intel photographs of Jolliffe (1968-75).

D. Jill Jolliffe publications

Jill Jolliffe’s very productive life as an investigative journalist and author began with her fledgling reporting from East Timor after the short 1975 civil war in Timor. Since then, her works have included books, newspaper and journal articles and audiovisual materials. Some examples are: List of published books (Source – NLA’s Trove database);  Newspaper articles by or about Jill Jolliffe (sample from Canberra Times 1975-1995); the influential Timor Newsletter published from Portugal, 1980-84; her audiovisual Living Memory Project.

E. Tributes to Jill Jolliffe

We will provide here, over time, links to various tributes to Jill since her death on 02 December 2022

Supporting Jill Jolliffe Facebook page has many individual tributes on the announcement of her death.

Jose Ramos-Horta (Tetum; YouTube video)

Timorese Resistance Archive & Museum. (AMRT)

‘TimTimFiles’ Image and text tribute (Indonesian; YouTube video)

More to come……

Vale Max Stahl, 1954-2021

1 November 2021

A legendary figure in Timor-Leste’s struggle for independence, the film-maker Max Stahl has died after his own long battle with illness. CHART’s chairperson, Prof. Michael Leach, reflects on Max’s contribution to, and place, in Timor-Leste’s history.

Timor-Leste is in mourning with the news that Max Stahl, filmmaker and journalist, lost his long battle with cancer in a Brisbane hospital on 28 October 2021 .

Stahl’s film footage of the infamous 12 November 1991 Santa Cruz massacre in Dili, in which Indonesian soldiers killed as many as 250 young Timorese protesters, shocked the world. Coming after the well publicised visit of Pope John Paul II to East Timor in 1989, the footage put Timor-Leste’s struggle for self-determination back on the international map. This occurred just as the Cold War was ending, shifting international politics in favour of the Timorese.

Originally known as Christopher Wenner, Stahl had been a British television host and actor before becoming a filmmaker and war correspondent. His personal bravery in taking the footage during the 1991 massacre is evident, as TNI soldiers opened fire at close range on thousands of Timorese protestors.

Stahl concealed the tapes in a grave, retrieving them by night after his own arrest and interrogation. With the assistance of activist and journalist Saskia Kouwenberg, and others, the footage was smuggled out of the territory. It soon hit TV screens around the world, demonstrating the brutality of the Indonesian occupation, and the determination of a younger generation of East Timorese to resist integration.

Few individuals influence the course of history, but it is hard not to see the journalist Max Stahl as an exception. His footage of the Santa Cruz massacre galvanised and directly stimulated new international support for the independence struggle. Indeed, it is hard to imagine Timor-Leste’s liberation in 1999 without Max Stahl’s footage at the beginning of that decade.

Stahl’s commitment to Timor-Leste continued through the 1990s and after the restoration of independence, especially through his establishment of the Centro Audiovisual Max Stahl Timor-Leste (CAMSTL). The Centro maintains a video archive of the Timorese struggle for independence including the 1999 referendum, interviews with key independence figures and extensive footage of the first two decades of the new nation’s journey (see note below).

The Timorese government has paid tribute to his “substantial contribution to independence” and awarded him their highest honours, including honorary citizenship.

As former President Jose Ramos-Horta declared:

We honour him as one of the true heroes of our struggle…There are only a few key points in the history of Timor-Leste where the course of our nation turned toward freedom. This was one of those points.

It was the first time our message broke through to the world. Human rights networks went into action. Senators, Congressmen and Parliamentarians came to our side. And this happened when one man was willing to risk his life to document up close what was happening and smuggled the message out of our country.

Max Stahl’s passing will now throw open the question of the future of his passionately-built video archive. We can think of no better way for Timor-Leste to honour Max’s memory than for CAMSTL to become a fully-resourced, properly housed and professionally-run National Audiovisual Archive of Timor-Leste.

Michael Leach, 29 October 2021.

Samples of the work of Max Stahl and his team can be viewed online at CAMSTL’s backup/mirror installation at the University of Coimbra, Portugal.

Photograph source: East Timor Relief Association (ETRA) archives.

Documents: Santa Cruz Massacre – 30 years on

10 August 2021

An international online symposium will mark the 30th anniversary of the infamous but history-changing 12 November 1991 Santa Cruz Massacre in Dili. We introduce here one Australian set of Santa Cruz-related documents and seek further contributions towards an online archives exhibition for the forthcoming symposium.

The death toll in the 1991 Santa Cruz Massacre remains contested, but this contemporary Indonesian cartoon got the aftermath right: Santa Cruz caused a dramatic and permanent increase in international scrutiny of the Indonesian military occupation of East Timor.

An International Research Symposium about the 1991 Santa Cruz Massacre will be held on 9-10 November 2021. The event is being organised by the Timor-Leste Studies Association and Timor’s Centro Nasional Chega! See more details in the TLSA’s  call for papers.

In support of the symposium, CHART proposed an exhibition of internationally-held archival materials about Santa Cruz. With the concurrence of Prof. David Webster in Canada, this exhibition will be mounted on his ever-expanding Timor Solidarity Archive (TiSA).

Digital copies of Santa Cruz-related documents are being sought from individuals and institutions internationally, to add to the online exhibition.

Please contact or send materials to David Webster (dwebster[AT]ubishops[DOT]ca).

ACFOA Human Rights Office Collection

The Santa Cruz files of the internationally-known Australian Council for Overseas Aid Human Rights Office have been added to TiSA to start building the exhibition.

The files are copies of working papers of the Office and its director, Pat Walsh. The files include some key documentary sources about Santa Cruz, but also show the day-to-day notes and communications of just one of the many active centres of Timor solidarity and advocacy which burst into new or renewed activity in mid-November 1991.

Other collections will need to be added to TiSA to show the full range of surviving documentary materials about this important moment in Timor-Leste’s tortuous path to independence.

Click here to view the ACFOA Human Rights Office Santa Cruz folders on TiSA.

See below for a small sample of individual items selected from the original 32 folders of documents.

‘New time bomb is ticking’. Newsclip 14 October 1990

This article notes the rise of public dissent by East Timorese youth in Dili a full year before the Santa Cruz events.

View other documents in the folder.

Motael Church killings, 28 October 1991

Bishop Belo’s statement of facts regarding his findings about the deaths of Sebastião Gomes and Afonso at Motael Church in the early-morning hours.

View other documents in this folder.

Eye-witness account of Santa Cruz events, 15 November 1991

Transcript of media conference given by Australian aid worker, Bob Muntz, who was injured during his escape from the massacre area.

View other eye-witness accounts in this folder.

Australian Foreign Minister’s statement to Parliament, 26 November 1991

Senator Gareth Evans prompted public criticism for describing the massacre as ‘abberant behaviour’ by the Indonesian military.

View other documents in this folder.

Indonesian Catholic Bishops Conference statement, 28 November 1991

Statements and questions from Konperensi Waligereja Indonesia after two visits to Dili by KWI representatives in late November.

View other documents in this folder.

Dossier: International media coverage, November-December 1991

A selection of Australian and international media items about Santa Cruz, issued by the East Timor Talks Campaign in Australia.

View whole dossier / folder.

Indonesia’s Legal Aid Institute report, January 1992

LBH, Indonesia’s long-standing human rights organisation, calls on the Indonesian government to act truthfully and fairly on Santa Cruz matters.

View other documents in this folder.

Berita Timur Timor update, 09 January 1992

An Indonesian NGO update on the legal proceedings facing East Timorese being detained in Jakarta following Santa Cruz. Includes the names of the detainees.

View other documents in this folder.

Juan Federer Jakarta interviews, January/February 1992

A fascinating insight into the Timor views and attitudes of well-connected Indonesians after Santa Cruz.

View other documents in this folder.

Amnesty International report, 06 February 1992

Amnesty concluded that the Indonesian-created National Commission of Inquiry on Santa Cruz was fatally flawed and its conclusions were unacceptable.

View other documents in this folder.

Asia Watch report, 23 June 1992

Asia Watch summarises and critically assesses legal proceedings taken against members of the Indonesian military for their roles in the Santa Cruz massacre.

View other documents in this folder. 

See also:

CHART’s 2011 guide to sources on the Santa Cruz Massacre.

Kevin Sherlock Collection: Researching Timorese migration to Australia

5 January 2021

 Kevin Sherlock’s death in Darwin in 2014 marked the end of his forty years of dedicated travelling, researching, collecting, translating and indexing published materials about Timor. He bequeathed his collection to the Charles Darwin University Library for long-term preservation and access.

Dr Vannessa Hearman recently accessed the Sherlock collection for her current research on East Timorese migration to Australia. She writes here of her immersion in this rich and valuable resource. 

Dr Vannessa Hearman delving into the Kevin Sherlock Collection.

Charles Darwin University (CDU), a small regional university located in Australia’s tropical north, has an outstanding collection on East Timor worthy of a research visit. CDU holds a special collection on East Timor that can be consulted in the library of its main campus at Casuarina, as well as a decent range of monographs in its Main Collection that can be borrowed directly or via interlibrary loans. CDU really stands out, though, as the custodian of the Kevin Sherlock East Timor Collection.

Establishing one of the best private collections in the world on East Timor, Darwin-based Kevin Sherlock was recognised by the East Timorese government for his services to the country in 2010. After organising and listing the collection at CDU in 2015, CHART’s John Waddingham observed: ‘This is a seriously impressive research collection which will be much consulted in the years to come.’ In this post, I share with readers some of my experiences in using the collection.

Location: Palmerston Campus
Due to space constraints, the Sherlock collection is housed at CDU’s Palmerston campus, some 20 kilometres from the Casuarina Campus where the other collections are held. For researchers planning to visit, it is important to contact the library beforehand, so that a librarian can arrange access. The collection is housed in a locked room which can only be accessed through library staff members. You will need to find your own way around the Sherlock collection, as there is not much collection advice available from the staff, who are either casual or on rotation from front desk duties at Casuarina.

At first glance, the collection appeared to be small, as the room in which it is hosted, in one corner of the library, is small. But its treasures reveal themselves slowly. It took me a few days to get used to the way the collection was arranged. Several pieces of information were needed to reveal the depth of the collection. I used a combination of the CDU library catalogue showing the books, journals and reports that have been catalogued thus far, an Excel spreadsheet showing CDU’s entire East Timor collection drawn up by one of the librarians for me, and Kevin’s own partial shelf list created in 2002 of almost 450 pages in length. By consulting all of these resources, I managed to get a reasonably good idea of what was in the collection. Nothing, though, beat being able to touch, see and read the materials directly.

Browsing the collection
The beauty of the Sherlock collection is its integrity. Much of the historical writing about East Timor is sharply divided between the time of pre- and post-Indonesian invasion. Having materials across several historical periods in one place allows the researcher plenty of opportunities for serendipitous discovery by just walking along the shelves. Being able to inspect the items, such as by pulling out and inspecting folders, based on pure speculation and curiosity, can also help foster new ways of thinking about East Timor and consider connections, rather than ruptures, between topics and historical periods.

The collection can be roughly divided into books and other materials (such as theses, newsletters and bulletins) that can be found by searching through the library catalogue (marked by CDU with the letters KS before the call number), and a variety of materials filed in folders (as discussed here). Kevin’s partial shelf list, mentioned earlier, provides some guidance to the folder materials. For my research on the East Timorese community in Australia, I focused initially on the newsletters published in Melbourne, Sydney, Darwin and Brisbane. In particular, the collection has extensive holdings of newsletters from Darwin (Eco, O Lusitano and La’o Rai) and Melbourne (Hadomi), as well as newsletters produced by the East Timorese community in Lisbon, Portugal.

A treasure trove
But the real treasure trove, for me, was the ordinary looking folders. A group of 502 folders, consisting of materials collected and arranged in alphabetical order, contained hard-to-find materials, such as exhibition catalogues, conference programs and papers, and ephemera such as leaflets and brochures of activist groups and fundraising campaigns. Materials Kevin collected, such as minutes of the meetings of the City of Darwin’s Friendship City Committee (with Dili) and plans for the Darwin Tetum School, founded in 1993, to teach the Tetum language to Timorese children in the diaspora showed the many hours of activities carried out in Darwin in support of East Timor, including by Kevin himself.

Poignantly, many of these materials also reflected the contribution of the late Jose Adriano Gusmao, National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) representative in Darwin, as well as of other East Timorese activists. Despite the availability of digitised newspapers now, other folders containing press clippings from the late 1970s to 2014 might also yield items of interest to researchers, for example, Jakarta Post and other media articles.

A role for researchers

Hosting a collection like the Kevin Sherlock requires ongoing support from the university and the library administration. East Timor researchers can help secure its future and demonstrate its value by using the collection and, perhaps as a professional grouping, discussing with the library as to how more of the collection could be made accessible to researchers worldwide. In this way, Kevin’s legacy may be more fully realised.

At the time of writing (late 2020), Vannessa Hearman was senior lecturer in Indonesian Studies at Charles Darwin University. In 2021, Dr Hearman will be senior lecturer in History at Curtin University in Western Australia [vannessa.hearman[at]]. Her research on East Timorese migration to Australia is funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC SR200201031).

Online: Timor International Solidarity Archive

8 September 2020

There are now several online collections of Timor-Leste archival records for the years 1974-1999. We introduce here the most recent of the resources, David Webster’s Timor International Solidarity Archive. While still developing, it promises to be a ‘go-to’ platform for placing and accessing worldwide archives on Timor and an example for Timor-Leste archival institutions.

The Timor International Solidarity Archive (TiSA) provides online access to digital copies of Timor solidarity movement records, 1975-1999. TiSA is the initiative of the Canadian Timor activist and academic historian, David Webster.

TiSA is the first collection of Timor archives to be delivered online using an archives-specific database system. (1) As the database grows, it will be a useful example for Timor-Leste’s developing archival institutions as they consider collection management and online access systems.

Top ten collections by numbers of digitised items online.

Currently the database lists over 60 international solidarity groups and individuals who created Timor materials in the occupation years. The majority of groups represented to date are from various European countries, north America and Australia.

There are currently about a thousand items listed in 34 collections, most of which include digital copies. An ‘item’ can be a single document, such as a letter or photograph, or can contain many separate documents.

Within each collection, the items are generally arranged into one or more ‘series’ or groups: Documents, publications, photographs, newsletters and newspaper clippings. TiSA especially has a strong and growing online collection of solidarity newsletters.

The digital copies are currently restricted to documents and photographs. Documentary materials are delivered in PDF format; some of them are text searchable. The copies are created through scanning or direct photography. The quality of some of the photographed items is at the lower-end, but entirely sufficient.

Some Highlights
TiSA has a strong record set from the Canadian ETAN (East Timor Alert Network) and 1990s news compilations from the USA’s ETAN (East Timor Action Network). Less well-known to the post Santa-Cruz Massacre generation of activists is the Timor work of early US activists such as Michael Chamberlain and Arnold Kohen.

One surprising entry in TiSA is the Asian-African Conference Bulletin, published by Indonesia’s Department of Foreign Affairs in 1955, reporting in English on the historic Bandung Conference of non-aligned countries. While containing no Timor content, it is included for research on decolonisation.

Navigating and Searching
Any exploration of archives databases is made easier if users understand the different levels of archival description. TiSA uses the most common basic archival hierarchy: Collection > Series > File > Item. This means that a given collection is made up of a number of groups (‘Series’). Each Series contains one or more ‘Files’ and each File can contain one or more ‘Items’. Every entry in TiSA  includes information about its place in that hierarchy.

The opening TiSA screen invites browsing in a number of ways, the top three ways being ‘archival descriptions’ (data on all description levels), ‘collections’ (actually provides the names of ‘creators’ (2)) and archival institutions (where the original archives are held). This is a good way to get a feel for the range of material in the database.

A simple search box at the top of the TiSA screen will find a search term wherever that term is in the database. As the database grows, this method may produce too many results for certain common terms. Generally, we find it is well worth the time to learn to use the advanced search screen to help keep search results more specific.

CHART comments
TiSA has the potential to set the standard for present and future online access to Timor archives. Its value will be greatly enhanced by contributions of material from solidarity groups around the world. Some CHART-created materials are accessible through TiSA; more contributions to come in the near future.

From an end-user point of view, TiSA might be improved by development of a front page which includes the best aspects of the browse function and the advanced search screen. Missing from TiSA, and all but one of the available online databases, is a set of subject headings to use in searches. (3)

In the meantime, it might be useful for end-users to be provided with a basic online guide to the structure of the data and methods for browsing and searching. The search results will be further enhanced by ensuring that key data elements like description levels and creators are consistently entered into the database.

With the exception of the Max Stahl Audiovisual Archive with its highly specialised database, Timor-Leste archives do not yet appear to have adopted archives-specific systems to manage and provide access to their collections. At least one Timor-Leste archival institution is seeing TiSA as a potential model for its own archives management system. We hope other institutions will follow this example.

[See also a Tetum-language version of this article]


(1) Access to Memory (AtoM) is an open-source free-to-download database system started by the International Council of Archives (ICA) to encourage the use of archival description procedures in small-to-medium size institutions. It is currently being maintained and improved by a Canadian company, Artefactual Systems. AtoM is used in a wide range of institutions internationally – especially in English and Portuguese-speaking countries.

(2) This ‘problem’ is too complicated to discuss here. Suffice to say, we would expect a Browse option called ‘Collections’ to list data with that particular ‘level’ of description. ‘Creator’ is not a level of description, it is a so-called ‘authority record’ (names of people, organisations etc) which can be linked to archival descriptions of any level.

(3) See brief discussion of subject headings in CHART’s 2013 article about CIDAC’s Timor Online resource.

Acknowledgement: CHART provided some early guidance on the development of TiSA. Many thanks to David Webster for the opportunity and for permissions to ‘look behind the scenes’ at the TiSA/AtoM setup.