Andrew McNaughtan video archive: CHART work

25 July 2013

CHART’s Cecily Gilbert and John Waddingham recently spent two weeks in residence at the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra examining the video collection of prominent 1990s Timor activist Dr Andrew McNaughtan (1954-2003).

Andrew McNaughtan with Jude Conway and FALINTIL commander, Taur Matan Ruak

East Timor 1999: Andrew McNaughtan with Jude Conway, FALINTIL commander Taur Matan Ruak, and camera. Credit: Jude Conway

The Andrew McNaughtan audiovisual collection holds some important historical footage from occupied East Timor in the 1990s. The collection was deposited at Australia’s National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) in 2006, three years after Andrew’s sudden and premature death in December 2003.

Andrew McNaughtan visited Timor several times from 1994, always carrying a video camera. He travelled around the territory, recording countryside and village scenes and interviewing anyone who was prepared to speak to camera about life and conditions under Indonesian military occupation.

The collection is an important part of the surviving archival record of this significant Australian activist and the period he observed in East Timor.

Collection content
Andrew McNaughtan’s video for the 1994-1998 period contains rare material, some of which is probably unique. Raw footage of particular note for this period includes:

  • Extensive coverage of the 1998 university ‘Student Dialogues’ process
  • Smuggled Indonesian recordings of post-demonstration detentions and interrogations
  • Interviews with Church personnel, including priests, nuns and Monsignor Belo
  • Interviews with ordinary Timorese on military occupation, human rights violations, food production and shortages
  • Some marvellous scenes of countryside, jubilant pre-independence crowds, religious ceremonies and devotions

McNaughtan’s extensive record of the historic ‘Student Dialogues’ throughout East Timor in the second half of 1998 is especially interesting. He travelled with the student convoys from Dili to various centres across the territory, recording the public rallies and the obstructions they experienced from civilian and military officials.

Teamwork: NFSA’s Tim Cowie (left) and Tenille Hands (third from left) with John Waddingham and Cecily Gilbert.

CHART work
CHART’s two weeks at NFSA was devoted to viewing the McNaughtan material and recording data about the collection content for NFSA’s online catalogue.

The project provided a number of challenges – not least of which was trying to determine the date and location of some 100 different recordings. CHART’s final data set on the collection is far from perfect. Much work remains to be done to more accurately identify people, places, events and spoken content.

Our data on the collection will be available through this website when it becomes available on the NFSA catalogue in coming weeks.

Access to collection
The collection will be available for viewing at NFSA after it is catalogued.

CHART also nominated some sixty tapes for special digitisation by NFSA which will enable that footage to be viewed through NFSA offices or agencies in most Australian capitals.

NFSA has a longer term plan to make footage like this accessible online through its own website. NFSA also has adopted in recent years an in-principle commitment to ensuring key Timor archival materials are eventually accessible to East Timorese through Timor-Leste’s own archival institutions.

Further information on Andrew McNaughtan:
1. Document archives: CHART work and list.
2. Jude Conway’s photographic testimonial (on Clinton Fernandes website)
3. Collected reflections by friends and colleagues.

Australian diplomats: behind the scenes

18 July 2013

The National Archives of Australia (NAA) holds voluminous and content-rich records of the inner workings of successive national governments and their underlying bureaucracies. While there remain significant restrictions on access to NAA’s Timor-related holdings, there is still much detail to be learned from the open records.

CHART’s John Waddingham and Cecily Gilbert recently spent a day at NAA’s main reading room in Canberra. We present here a few snapshots of the day-to-day Timor work by officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) in the late 1970s.

A. Massive population displacement – 1978
The 1978/1979 famine in East Timor was a direct result of major Indonesian military campaigns from late 1977 – especially as it resulted in huge numbers of East Timorese moving into camps under Indonesian control but without adequate humanitarian aid.

Click to see document

In early 1979 officers of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta received an Indonesian Red Cross document purporting to detail some 300,000 East Timorese ‘returning’ from the bush during 1978. This data was not made public at the time. It may now provide useful research data to help understand the scale of tragedy which unfolded.



‘Lets see first what the Canadians give us.’

B. Sharing information with allies
Ambassadors from several countries who visited East Timor in September 1978 saw the first signs of an emerging famine in the territory (see our earlier article). The archival record of what governments like Australia did and did not do to push for the much-needed entry of international emergency humanitarian aid is a key issue that CHART will explore further.

For now, however, a minor sideshow: Behind the scenes DFAT officers decide which of Australian ambassador Tom Critchley’s reports on his Timor visit are to be shared with Canada and New Zealand. The record shows the department ensuring it gets reciprocal information benefits from the sharing. Click image above to view.



C. Jim Dunn and the Fraser Committee
NAA holds a packed lever-arch Jakarta Embassy file entitled “Dunn allegations”. While CHART had insufficient time to explore its full contents, the file clearly shows Jim Dunn’s contribution to the public debate was of great concern to the DFAT officers trying to manage the Timor issue.

Dunn’s March 1977 appearance before the US Congressional Sub-committee on International Organisations (known as the ‘Fraser Committee’ after its chairman, Donald Fraser) to report on human rights violations in occupied East Timor was a cause for much cable traffic between Canberra and Jakarta. The samples we show here are Ambassador Richard Woolcott’s reportage on conversations with the US Ambassador to Jakarta and a senior Indonesian Foreign Affairs official.


D. 1977 US Congressional visit – a “snow job”
Indonesian government alarm at Jim Dunn’s testimony before the Fraser Committee in March 1977 quickly led to a short, arranged visit to Timor by US representatives William Goodling and Helen Meyner. Media coverage of the April 1977 visit provided the headlines satisfactory to the Indonesian side (see example here); Meyner’s formal report and personal testimony to the same Congressional committee in July was somewhat more guarded.

The views and observations of the US embassy officers in Jakarta who accompanied Meyner and Goodling to Timor were communicated to the Australian embassy. The record of that conversation reports the US officers describing the visit as a “snow job”. The officers said they were telling more to the Australian embassy officers than they had communicated to Washington; they include reported claims against Jim Dunn and the Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA) – the latter accused of supplying military aid to Fretilin. Click image to read the conversation record.

And a curious sideshow to the July meeting of the Fraser Committee: It seems that off-the-record back room work was done by Australia’s Washington Embassy to delay the meeting. The reason was to ensure the meeting did not coincide with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser’s Washington visit in mid-1977. But why Ambassador Flood thought it necessary to avoid standard diplomatic cables to report this seems puzzling.


E. Keeping Fretilin / Ramos-Horta out of Australia
The Fraser Government decided in 1976 to no longer allow members of Fretilin’s external delegation to visit Australia. The ban was overturned by the Hawke Labor Government in 1983. Several attempts were made by Jose Ramos-Horta to enter Australia in those intervening years – without success.

We provide here a small window into DFAT consideration of such applications and the form of its recommendation to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Andrew Peacock (who initials his agreement to deny Horta entry).

Christopher Dunn: Please, Mr Peacock....

Christopher Dunn: Please, Mr Peacock….

The file also contains a sweeter note: the original hand-written letter to Andrew Peacock by young Christopher Dunn (son of Jim) ‘asking very nicely’ for ‘my friend Mr Horta’ to be allowed to make a ‘little visit’.


National Archives of Australia References:

[A] NAA: A1838, 3038/10/11/2 PART 6. Portuguese Timor – Visits of Australians to Portuguese Timor

[B] NAA: A1838, 3038/10/11/2 PART 5. Portuguese Timor – Visits of Australians to Portuguese Timor

[C] NAA: A10463, 801/13/11/10 PART 1.  Jakarta – Timor – Dunn allegations – Australian reactions – Australian parliamentary activity

[D] NAA: A10463, 801/13/11/10 PART 2. Jakarta – Third country relations – East Timor – Dunn allegations

[E] NAA: A1838, 3038/10/3 PART 5. East Timor Fretelin [Fretilin] and pro Fretelin [Fretilin] activities in Australia

Bill Morrison Papers: Timor fragments

5 July 2013

CHART recently visited the National Library of Australia to examine some Timor fragments in the papers of former Australian diplomat and parliamentarian, the late Bill Morrison.

We present here a brief summary of the collection’s Timor-related contents and report our discovery of a minor archival treasure.

Bill Morrison. 1983

Bill Morrison. 1983 [Source: The Bulletin]

Bill Morrison (1928-2013) was a career diplomat-turned-politician who was a minister in the Whitlam Labor Government, 1972-75. He lost his seat in 1975 but returned to parliament in 1980 until becoming Australia’s ambassador to Indonesia, 1985-89.

While the Timor issue would have crossed his desk as Defence Minister in late 1975, his most prominent public connection to Timor was as leader of the controversial Australian parliamentary delegation visit to Indonesia in July-August 1983

Morrison collection
The National Library of Australia (NLA) holds Bill Morrison’s personal papers accumulated in his terms in public life (1969-1989). In many ways, the papers are typical of a number of other politicians’ archives in Australian public repositories. They contain a mixture of subject files, correspondence and files on specific parliamentary activities such as serving on various parliamentary committees. Morrison was a member of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and his papers also include ALP internal organisational materials.

The National Library’s general description of the Morrison collection can be found here.

For a more detailed guide to the content of the collection, see the NLA’s online finding aid.

Access restrictions
The Morrison papers originally carried an undated 30-year restriction on access. Following CHART enquiries, the NLA manuscripts division has determined that some of the papers are available for immediate public access; others remain  restricted.

CHART learned in discussion with the NLA’s manuscripts curator that access to papers like Bill Morrison’s is subject to the 1983 Archives Act and the 1993 Parliamentary Services Act. In short this means, for example, that Morrison’s nearly-40-year-old Defence Minister files from 1975 still need to be examined by National Archives for possible exempt materials* before being cleared for access.

Similarly, the full extent of Mr Morrison’s papers on his time as Indonesian Ambassador will not be accessible until 2015; even then, the papers will likely be subject to prior examination by National Archives.

Bill Morrison's papers on the 1983 Parliamentary Delegation visit to Indonesia & East Timor.

Bill Morrison’s papers on the 1983 Parliamentary Delegation visit to Indonesia & East Timor.

Timor Content
CHART’s examination of a small selection of boxes from the Morrison papers revealed the collection to contain Timor materials of unquestionable research interest.

1. Labor Party Timor policy development
The collection contains materials offering insight into ALP policy development, especially on Timor. Of particular value are internal papers leading up the the landmark 1984 ALP national conference which watered down the party’s Timor previous position (see our earlier article on this issue).

2. Parliamentary Delegation
The three boxes of material on the 1983 Parliamentary Delegation, while partly restricted, offer particular insight into the original drafting of the delegation’s report. From the examined files, it seems that Morrison himself wrote in long-hand, the very first draft of key sections of the report. The boxes also contain a good collection of Indonesian print media coverage of the overall delegation visit and a comprehensive file on the so-called ‘chance meeting with Fretilin’ (see below), including the public controversy which followed.

Letter to Delegation, 1983

Letter to Delegation, 1983**

Buried treasure
The unscripted interception of a delegation vehicle by members of the Fretilin-led resistance became a public sensation; even moreso when it was alleged after the delegation’s departure that the Fretilin member’s words to Bill Morrison were mistranslated.

At the interception, the resistance member (Cancio de Sousa Gama) handed Morrison a letter from Fretilin – the text of which was translated and incorporated into the Delegation’s formal report.

CHART was greatly surprised to find the original letter in Bill Morrison’s personal papers at the National Library. Click image at right to see the front of the four-page original text.

CHART will explore the broader 1983 Parliamentary Delegation saga in more detail in coming weeks.


The Morrison collection at the National Library of Australia contains valuable additions to the overall archival record about East Timor, 1974-99. In addition to the non-Morrison primary source materials therein, it also offers some insight into Mr Morrison’s views and work on the East Timor issue which ran strongly against the case for East Timorese self-determination.


*Exempt materials: Materials which still contain sensitive information; see details here. In the case of East Timor, most government-sourced materials are automatically regarded as sensitive and a decision on access often takes many months.

** Fretilin Letter to Delegation, 26 July 1983, Papers of Bill Morrison, National Library of Australia, MS 4957 / Addition 1 November 1984 / Box 65.
[Letter reproduced here by kind permission of Pictures and Manuscripts, National Library of Australia]

Parliamentary Inquiry: CHART submission

15 May 2013

The Australian Parliament has begun a broad-ranging inquiry into Australia’s relationship with Timor-Leste. We present here a summary and full text of CHART’s submission to the inquiry.

CHART calls for a critical examination of current restrictions on access to Australian government archives about East Timor and calls for Australian support for emerging archival institutions in Timor-Leste.

On May 21, the Australian parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade will commence public hearings on Australia’s relationship with Timor-Leste. The inquiry will examine government and non-government relationships and has attracted over seventy submissions – largely from Australian NGOs and individuals.

This is the third Australian parliamentary inquiry specifically on Timor in the current era, following Senate Committee inquiries in 1982-83 and 1999-2000. Historically these reports have had little obvious influence on the direction of government policy (the 1983 report was virtually ignored by the then Hawke Labor Government). However, such inquiries can provide a comprehensive insight into the thinking and actions of key players and are an important compendium of current information. The reports and the large volume of submissions and evidential transcripts also serve as a rich archival record for future generations.

CHART Submission
Our submission to the inquiry is based on an a view that the current many-faceted relationship between Australia and Timor-Leste arises directly out of the traumatic years of the Indonesian military occupation, 1975-1999. For this reason, Australians and East Timorese have a shared and abiding interest in access to historical archives about this period.

The Chart submission makes a series of recomendations in two areas: The right to the truth through access to archives, and the development of relationships between Australian and emerging East Timorese archival institutions.

Access to Australian archives on Timor
Drawing attention to the growing international interest in ‘the right to truth’, CHART makes a number of recommendations on access, including:

  • Timor records in the custody of the National Archives of Australia (NAA) be subject to a special program to expedite their release for public access
  • Processes for examining records for release be revised to speed up public access
  • The Department of Foreign Affairs’ restrictions on access be critically examined to establish whether they are over-cautious or unnecessarily restrictive.

Timor-Australia Archival relationships
Australia, as comparatively rich neighbour, is better placed than any other to cooperate with Timor-Leste in the development of sustainable archival institutions in Timor. While arguing against unsustainable, quick-fix, high technology assistance, the CHART submission recommends:

  • Exploratory relationship-building between National Archives of Australia and Timor-Leste’s Arquivo Nacional
  • Australian government support for Australian institutions with Timor archival holdings and programs
  • Australian archival institutions include in their Timor relationship programs, coordination with related Timor-engaged Australian non-government cultural initiatives
  • Programs to copy Australian-held Timor archival materials for eventual access in Timor-Leste.

CHART believes all these practical recommendations can be achieved over time and done in ways which are of relatively low cost.

Further information:
Full text of CHART submission
Links to all Inquiry submissions

[Note: More links to be added as Inquiry proceeds]

Remembering 1979: Canberra & Jakarta public relations

2 January 2010

A 1979 submission to Australia’s Fraser Government Cabinet shows that politics, not East Timorese needs, was the principal reason for increasing humanitarian aid to East Timor in November that year.

The stated reason for ‘urgency’ in the submission:

Click to view

Recent publicity about the situation in Timor has led to criticism in Australia of the Indonesian Government and increasing public pressure on the (Australian) government to provide aid. We believe it is in the Government’s interests to respond to this problem as soon as possible.

No reference to the desperate humanitarian situation facing the Timorese at that time. The ‘recent publicity’ was Peter Rodgers’ articles and photographs of mass starvation in East Timor, highlighted earlier on this blog (see Remembering 1979).

The backgrounder attached to the formal submission makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in Australian government policy making on Timor at the time. It also provides an insight into Australian and Indonesian government views on Australian non-government aid organisations – including Indonesia’s alleged (inaccurate) branding of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA) as “actively pro-Fretilin”.

The backgrounder also shows the Australian Government knew there was a significant humanitarian crisis in November 1979. Researchers scrutinising the broader set of 1979 official documents now released for access should be able to learn just how early Australia did know about the desperate situation developing inside Timor during 1978/79.

Indonesian government propaganda booklet

Click to view

The cabinet submission background document also shows Indonesian Foreign Minister Mochtar didn’t care much for the picture revealed by Peter Rodgers’ articles. The articles certainly contradicted the Government of Indonesia’s own preferred international images of what life was like for the East Timorese in 1979.

The Indonesian Department of Information’s ‘To build a better tomorrow in East Timor’, printed on high quality paper in the second half of 1979, conveyed an image of modest but forward-looking progress for the East Timorese. Knowing what we know now about the truth of the situation inside Timor, let alone what most of us already knew in 1979, this Jakarta publication was a perfect example of why Indonesian Government claims about East Timor had to be treated with  maximum scepticism.

Note on sources

The Cabinet Submission is highlighted in this year’s release of the Fraser Government Cabinet records by the National Archives of Australia (NAA). Australian law requires the release of government records to the public thirty years after their creation – though this may soon be changed to twenty years (see earlier blog post).

NAA’s full selection of significant Foreign Affairs and Defence issues put to the 1979 Australian Cabinet can be found here.

The Indonesian Government publication is in the Timor Information Service archives, Melbourne