It is now twenty years since the historic 30 August 1999 United Nations-supervised ‘Popular Consultation’. Nearly 80% of East Timorese voted to reject Indonesian incorporation and confirmed their long-fought-for desire for independence.
The year was tumultuous in many ways, not least through the depredations of Indonesian military-backed militias. These groups intimidated and murdered East Timorese with impunity before and after the vote and worked with the military after the vote to force a mass displacement of people and destroy most of the territory’s building infrastructure.
There are large volumes of documentation outside Timor which record solidarity group, NGO and government observations and actions about Timor in this dramatic last year of the occupation. We present here a few samples from the archives of a key Australian NGO.
The document sample comes from the archive of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid Human Rights office (ACFOAHR), covering the whole of 1999. For contextual information, we have also provided a link to a full digital copy of the source folder for each of the selected documents.
Click here to view the ACFOAHR 1999 Selections.
The selected documents and their associated folders provide a small window through which we can glimpse the richness of this collection. These records do not necessarily contain many items of great historical importance. They do, however, offer invaluable insight into the interests and work of this historically important office in its advocacy in defense of the East Timorese.
The Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA) was the peak coordinating body for mainstream Australian humanitarian aid and development organisations. It became became prominent locally and internationally in advocacy for Timor through the occupation years from 1975.
Largely as a result of work of Pat Walsh in the name of ACFOA from the late 1970s, the Human Rights office was formally established in 1985 and closed in 2000. While research and advocacy on other matters like Burma/Myanmar, West Papua and the rights of indigenous Australians, East Timor remained a key element in the office during its life.
The ACFOAHR archive is one of the largest collections managed by CHART since the early 2000s. The collection is internationally important. It holds a rich documentary record of events inside Timor since 1975, evidence of Australian and international government and non-government advocacy for and against the East Timorese as well as the prodigious record of direct advocacy on Timor by Pat Walsh and his associates in the office.
For a guide to the contents of this important collection, see CHART’s preliminary box list.
CHART has digitised the bulk of this collection – copies of which will be given to East Timorese archival institutions for current and future East Timorese and other researchers.