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……

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).

Access to National Archives: The Kim McGrath case

23 July 2020

Since 2013, researcher and author Kim McGrath* has sought direct access to Australian government archives on 1970s Australia-Indonesia seabed boundary negotiations over the Timor Sea. While many files are now available for study, the National Archives refused access to a significant volume of material in some of those files. Australia’s Administrative Appeals Tribunal recently confirmed the National Archives’ decisions to refuse access to the redacted materials.

We explore here the nature of the files sought by McGrath, the reasons why access was refused to some material and why we feel the Tribunal process was unfair.

Heavily redacted pages from a 1979 file on Australia-Indonesia Timor seabed boundary negotiations. [Source: NAA A1828 1733/3/2 Part 8]

The National Archives of Australia (NAA) currently holds over 2,000 folders of Australian Government records about Timor-Leste for the years 1974-1999. (1)  The many thousands of individual documents in the folders are an irreplaceable research record of historical Australian government policy and actions on Timor. Some of the documents also provide some unique insights into Indonesian government policies, events on the ground in Timor itself, and the work of solidarity activists in Australia.

Roughly 1,000 folders are immediately available to researchers. Half of these folders are fully open to researchers but the other half have parts of them kept secret. (2)

Most of these folders can only be seen by visiting NAA in Canberra. About 15% of the folders can be viewed online.

To see the digitised folders, click on the ‘digital item’ icon in these two lists of ‘Timor’ items at NAA:
(i) Fully ‘Open’ folders
(ii) ‘Open with exception’ folders (partly-secret or redacted text).

Researchers can apply to Australia’s Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) for access to the secret/redacted texts. However, as Kim McGrath found in her appeal, the odds are stacked against success.

Timor Gap folders
Australian government records are fundamental to Kim McGrath’s doctoral-candidate research on Indonesia-Australia seabed boundary negotiations in the 1970s. These Australian records provide a deep insight into Australia’s and Indonesia’s past and present policies and actions on the Timor Gap.

See this list for an indication of the number and range of Timor seabed-related folders held by NAA.

While McGrath was able to access some folders with no significant restrictions, NAA decided that another 24 folders could only be accessed after extensive redactions. We have created a modified version of McGrath’s list of files she submitted to the AAT to challenge NAA’s redactions. The list includes McGrath’s summary of the important content of each folder and the details of NAA’s restricted-access decisions.

Only two of the 24 folders have been digitised and made available through NAA’s online database:
(i) January 1978 cabinet papers on Australia’s de facto recognition of the Indonesian takeover (partly redacted);
(ii) January 1979 Australia-Indonesia Timor Gap talks (heavily redacted).

A long road to the AAT decision
Between July 2013 and June 2014 Kim McGrath applied to NAA for access to the folders. NAA failed to make an access decision for most of the files within the mandatory 90-day period, effectively denying her access to the folders. McGrath then applied to the AAT in March and October 2014 for a review of NAA’s (non-)decisions.

The formal Tribunal hearing was not held until May 2018, almost five years after her first application to the AAT. In the interim, NAA completed its examination of the folders and had largely finalised its access decisions by September 2016.

McGrath then had to wait a further two years after the 2018 Tribunal hearing before the AAT judgement was delivered on 9 June 2020.

The Tribunal decision
The Tribunal endorsed NAA’s redactions of the folders. The Tribunal accepted NAA’s opinion that some material could not be seen because it “could reasonably be expected to cause damage” to Australia’s security or international relations. (3)

McGrath’s arguments included that some of the material could be released because the content was no longer sensitive or because similar material in other NAA folders had already been released.

NAA’s key witness was Greg French, a one-time legal expert within the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT) and now Australia’s Ambassador to Italy. French examined the 24 folders and concluded that release of the redacted material “could damage” Australia’s relations with Timor-Leste and “was very likely to damage” Australia’s relations with Indonesia.

French explained his reasons for this conclusion – but only in a closed session of the Tribunal hearing. Neither Kim McGrath nor her lawyers were permitted to hear French’s reasoning nor cross-examine him or other NAA witnesses in the closed session.

CHART Comment
The time taken for the AAT to consider Kim McGrath’s challenge to NAA’s access decisions is already a clear injustice. More generally, such a delay would discourage others from taking the same course of action to challenge NAA’s access decisions.

While the NAA has to defend itself at the AAT, it is clear that NAA actually depends on DFAT to decide in the first place what should be redacted from DFAT documents now in the National Archive. No surprise, then, that an expert witness who is himself a DFAT officer would affirm and support DFAT opinion given to NAA.

The lack of independence implied in such a witness testimony is bad enough. The inability of an applicant like Kim McGrath to challenge witness testimony given in a closed court adds to the unfairness of the whole process.

Relevance for Timor-Leste
The Australian national archives system has much to recommend it. But the access appeals procedures are far from perfect, as the Kim McGrath case demonstrates. Perhaps Timor-Leste can devise a system which shows a better way.

Timor-Leste has an ever-growing archival heritage. Some 1974-1999 materials are still held privately but increasing volumes are kept in at least four archival institutions. Other materials can be found outside Timor.

Missing from Timor-Leste’s archival world are formal laws to protect but also encourage access to that archival heritage. Various draft laws have existed since at least 2003 but none have made it into formal Law.

Hopefully Timor-Leste’s civil society will have a chance to contribute to the drafting of national laws on archives before they are legislated. And hopefully those laws will make clear what can and cannot be seen by Timor’s citizens, the reasons for any restrictions and a fair and efficient mechanism for challenging access decisions that seem questionable.



* Kim McGrath is a long-time researcher/analyst, consultant and advisor on governance, policy development and other matters to governments, private companies, universities and not-for-profits. Since 2009 she has researched the 1970s Australia-Indonesia seabed boundary negotiations, out of which arose her popular 2017 book, Crossing the Line: Australia’s Secret History in the Timor Sea. Her doctoral studies are entitled Alternative histories – Australia’s Timor Sea energy diplomacy in the 1960s and 1970s. She recently wrote in the Foreign Affairs journal on the 2004 ASIS spying scandal in Timor and its ongoing aftermath. See an edited extract in the 12 July 2020 Guardian newspaper.

Many thanks to Kim McGrath for sharing with CHART an account of her NAA/AAT experience and some associated documents.

(1)  Almost 2700 records can be found in NAA’s public online database using the simple search term “timor’ in the date range 1974-1999. A further search, excluding photographs and audio-visual formats, shows there are 2056 ‘paper file & document’ records.

(2) Of the 2056 folders, 519 are ‘Open’; 479 are ‘Open with exception’ (ie accessible but with secret pages removed and/or redacted text); 82 are ‘Closed’ (not available for access). Another 976 folders are classified as ‘Not yet examined’ (no researcher has yet asked for access).

(3) This is the most common reason for redactions in hundreds of Timor folders at NAA. Documents are exempt from access if they match any one of a range of conditions described in the Australia’s archives law.

Further information

Media items on the Tribunal decision: The Guardian.

Full text of the AAT Decision McGrath & National Archives of Australia.

CHART articles on Clinton Fernandes’ successful 2011 AAT appeal and his less successful 2014 AAT appeal.

Remembering 1999: ACFOA Human Rights office archives

30 August 2019

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.

ACFOAHR Archives
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.