Subject: AGE: New clinic to be Balibo Five memorial

New clinic to be Balibo Five memorial

The Age October 21, 2002

By Jill Jolliffe Balibo

The Victorian Government will establish a medical clinic in the East Timor house used by five Australian-based journalists whom Indonesian invaders killed.

The villagers of Balibo, where the journalists were killed in 1975, are enthusiastic about a State Government plan to build a memorial clinic there.

"Our town was wiped out by the Indonesian invasion in 1975, and then again by the militias in '99," village chief Abel dos Santos said. "We have very little. But when the Australians came here to consult us about a memorial we said 'yes, a clinic would be good'."

Premier Steve Bracks' office has been negotiating with Timorese authorities since 2000 to acquire a house in Balibo that could be suitable. Mr Bracks and East Timorese Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta will announce details in Melbourne today.

A spokeswoman for Mr Bracks last night confirmed the announcement would take place this morning. She said the government wanted to preserve the house as a permanent memorial. The house proposed is one in which the television reporters known as the Balibo Five sheltered some days before they were killed.

Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham, Tony Stewart, Brian Peters and Malcolm Rennie were shot dead as Indonesian troops entered the border town on October 16, 1975, and a UN police investigation is continuing. All lived in Melbourne, with the exception of Sydney-based Mr Peters. Mr Peters and Mr Rennie were British, and Mr Cunningham was a New Zealander.

The house was known as the Australia house because Greg Shackleton was filmed by Portuguese television painting an Australian flag on it days before the attack, but it is not the house in which they died.

Both houses are in danger of collapse. They have been without roofs since 1999, and the brickwork is unlikely to survive another monsoon season, due to begin next month.

Balibo's population of 3500 is strongly conscious of the history of the houses, and the foreign interest in the town.

It is on the road to recovery three years after the militia terror, when buildings were torched and residents deported to Indonesia.

"Recovery has been enormous," Mr dos Santos said, "but we are still very poor. Many houses need rebuilding, and we have no running water. However, most people agree that a clinic would be the best contribution."

The Premier's office has recently begun consulting the families of the journalists on the memorial. The three Melbourne-based families were invited to today's announcement, and British relatives have been briefed.

Margaret Wilson, a cousin of Mr Rennie, said by phone from London that his family saw the clinic proposal as a positive memorial tribute.

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