Subject: Transcript: Unsung Australians Rebuild East Timor

Australian Broadcasting Corporation Transcript: 7:30 News with Kerry O'Brien 20/03/00

Unsung Australians rebuild East Timor

KERRY O'BRIEN: Australia's intervention in East Timor last year has won plenty of international plaudits, and a special medal will be awarded to all troops who served over 30 days as part of the Interfet deployment.

But as well as some 1,500 of our troops still serving there under UN command, there are scores of other Australians helping the fledgling nation find its feet.

For them, there will be no official thanks.

Their reward is simply the pleasure of helping people in need.

Philip Williams reports from Dili.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: Garry Woodward loves building things, and he's good at it but this is no ordinary site.

After raising money around the NSW north coast town of Ballina, Garry Woodward said goodbye to his wife and five children.

East Timor needed him more.

GARRY WOODWARD: We put our materials together, with the help of the local Ballina community, and with Russell as an electrician who came over to help me.

We put all this together on a voluntary basis and came over to help the people of East Timor build a TB clinic with a laboratory.

Caritas is asking us to build a lab while we're here.

But, in the meantime, I met up with Timor Aid and they asked me to come under their banner because they could see it was a good project and here we are doing our best.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: These are the conditions the new tuberculosis clinic will replace, a burnt-out shell transformed by good heart and months of sweat.

He could have stayed home earning good money.

GARRY WOODWARD: Oh, a builder's rate, I suppose.

It'd be about, I don't know, $600, $700 a week.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: What do you get here?


It's all voluntary, the whole thing.

We just come to do our bit.

If we can put something back into society after taking out of it for a while, I think it's good for everybody.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: Garry's not alone.

There are two East Timorese learning on the job and Russell the sparky.

RUSSELL CZYNSKI: I'll put a junction box on it and then we can put the power on.

Big day, power's going on today, we hope, if we can find where it comes from and if we can find a fuse.

It might only be someone in a little house somewhere that hasn't got any lights on.

They can get a bit of light on.

Driving around, you can see what's happened to the country.

If we can do a bit, good on us.

If anyone doesn't get any satisfaction out of that, well, they haven't got much of a heart.

VINCE LITTLE: You find the devastation around here even still.

It will be a long time before they clean it up.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: Across town, Vince Little has certainly done his apprenticeship.

With not a single day or night off since last October, the Queensland ambo has been manning his donated ambulance, scrounging the petrol to keep it going.

VINCE LITTLE: Personally and professionally, the most challenging thing I've ever done in my life.

I've done everything here that you'd do back home, but the environment and the culture has made it extremely difficult, and certainly the lack of communication has made it very difficult, and certainly the lack of resources.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: But these people have become his people too, and quite a few owe their lives to him.

VINCE LITTLE: We've done everything here from birth to death and death by murder.

We have horrendous crowd situations here.

Everywhere we go, we attract a large crowd.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: The hardest of many hard days here was a call to a traffic accident, a five-year-old child killed in front of the house.

VINCE LITTLE: And now I suddenly realised and found the child lying on a table and the women were screaming and the child was in a terrible condition and myself and my assistant that I trained we had to put it together for the family and try to hold it down until the police got there.

Probably that's going to be my worst memory for a long time.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: Unlike Australia, where an efficient ambulance service is a quiet assumption, here, at times, Vince has been all the people have.

VINCE LITTLE: The patient was involved in a big fight Sunday before last.

He's a man that some other people tried to set fire to, severely burnt.

He has to go backwards and forwards between home and the clinic to have his wounds dressed every day.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: Squeezing through narrow streets, picking up damaged bodies in a broken city day in, day out for six months has taken its toll.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: You're really exhausted, aren't you?

VINCE LITTLE: Yeah, I'm getting that way.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: How will it be for you in a couple of days, when you have to leave?


(Says phrase in local language).

It means "sick heart".

And I guess that's what I'll have for a long time leaving here, but it will be a while before I can get back, a long time.

I think the hardest part probably is going to be explaining and telling people back home.

I'll probably handle going home at the time, but I think when people ask me about it back home, that will be the hardest part.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: How do you relate the suffering, the trauma, the sheer exhaustion working in this shell of a city to the comforts and certainties back home at Toowoomba?

As Vince Little says, you just have to cope.

PHILIP WILLIAMS: You've given a lot here, haven't you?

VINCE LITTLE: Probably no more than what I've been gifted to give.

Yeah, probably given a lot of myself, but that's what life's about.

If you've got it, you give it.

There's no point having anything you can't share.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Some fine Australians in the front line of East Timor's agonising rebuilding process.

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