Subject: RA: Australia to fund centre where aussie journalists killed

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Radio Australia October 28, 2002

EAST TIMOR: Australia to fund centre where aussie journalists killed

The families of five Australian-based journalists killed when Indonesian troops entered East Timor in 1975 have welcomed moves to refurbish what's become known as the 'Australian house' in the border town of Balibo. Just before their death, the murdered newsmen painted an Australian flag on the side of the building as a sign of neutrality. Now the plan is to turn the house into a clinic or some other much-needed community asset as a memorial to those who died.

Presenter/Interviewer: Tom Fayle

Speakers: Greg Cunningham, brother of the late Channel Seven camerman Gary Cunningham; Jose Ramos Horta, East Timor's Foreign Minister; Steve Bracks, Premier of the Australian state of Victoria

MALE NEWSREADER (archives): The first it's now feared that five Australian television newsmen may have been killed in the fighting in East Timor. Although the reports are unconfirmed the influential Indonesian newspaper COMPASS quotes the UDT leader, Senior Lopez De Cruz as saying that the bodies of four white men were found in the ruins of a house in Balibo late last week, soon after the newsmen were reported missing.

CUNNINGHAM: It sort of came a bit out of the blue. And we had sort of an inkling about it sometime ago. But we've heard sort of so many stories over the years that we don't always believe them and when this sort of came out and it was basically true we actually were quite delighted something positive at long last was going to come out of 27 years of sort of coverups and lies and things like that, something decent's going to appear.

HORTA: In Melbourne, I just came from an event with the premier in launching a project which the premier shares very much in rebuilding the house in Balibo where five newsmen were murdered in 1975.

FAYLE: 27 years ago, Jose Ramos Horta, now the foreign minister of the world's newest nation, was a young leader of the Fretilin resistance.

He was in Balibo with the five journalists only hours before they were killed. He's even said to have taken their last piece of news footage back to the capital, Dili.

HORTA: The premier is putting some money, Channel 9, Channel 7 are putting some money to refurbish the building we can work with East Timor Government and World Vision to become either a school, a kindergarten or whatever we decide in future.

FAYLE: The house concerned is now a roofless, windowless shell, yet another victim of the violence and destruction unleashed by the pro-Jakarta militias in the wake of the Timorese people's overwhelming vote for independence in 1999.

Today, the initiative to create a functioning community centre as a memorial to all those who died has come from the state governnment of Victoria...home to Australia's largest East Timorese community.

State Premier Steve Bracks, who visited East Timor last year, says Victoria will contribute an initial 50,000 Australian dollars to buy and refurbish the eight-roomed house in central Balibo. Channels Seven and Nine are putting in a further 25,000 dollars each, while the big construction company multiplex is chipping in with materials and support personnel.

BRACKS: We have a primary responsibility in Australia to assist in the support and reconstruction and redevelopment of East Timor. Every state in Australia has that responsibility. The Australian government has that responsibility. The people of Victoria certainly want to make sure that we can do everything we can. We have in Victoria for example the largest population of East Timorese in Australia, have settled in Melbourne and Victoria. We have strong and long term bonds which have been developed and as the government we are strongly commited to do what we can in the reconstruction and redevelopment and this is our way of saying that we understand that past governments have not acknowledged the problems that occurred on the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, but acknowledging also that we have moving on and assisting an independent nation and a great partner for Australia in the future.

FAYLE: The1975 footage of Melbourne-based Channel Seven reporter Greg Shackleton daubing a crude Australian flag on the side of the Balibo House, in an ultimately doomed bid to ensure the crews' protection, remains one of the enduring images of the Timorese conflict.

Greg Cunningham is the brother of one of the Balibo Five, Channel Seven camerman Gary Cunningham. He says there's whole-hearted support for the project from all the families involved, bringing the surviving relatives a sense of comfort and closure.

CUNNINGHAM: Because of the way they were killed, there were never any bodies and I mean the so-called remains that are buried in Jakarta aren't I don't believe is them either way and I suppose just to have something positive like this would be just a nice sort of closing a circle or ending it for us. For 27 years we've lived with conflicting information and lack of information and things like that and probably we're going to have that for the rest of our lives, but they went over there to do a job which was to sort of tell the truth about Timor and to think that some good will come out of all this I think is a very positive thing.

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