The living memory of Jill Jolliffe, 1945-2022

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……


One Response to The living memory of Jill Jolliffe, 1945-2022

  1. Peter Woodruff says:

    Dear John, Cecily and Team, Many thanks for the update on the Timor archives. You share many stories of enduring courage, the kind of courage that we need to take on the challenges of our lives. We tend to do our best to get on with whatever we believe is our responsibility. However, we do tend to limit the scope of what we define as our responsibility. Your reports challenge us to stretch us beyond our self defined limit. For that especially, many thanks. Peter

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