Subject: HeraldSun: Memorial to Balibo five

Herald Sun Sunday

Memorial to Balibo five By PAUL STEWART 19oct03

FAMILIES of the five journalists killed in East Timor in 1975 will soon mourn at a house built on memories.

The Balibo Flag House has been reconstructed by Melbourne company Multiplex as part of a promise by Victorian Premier Steve Bracks.

It has been determined that the house was the journalists' last refuge as Indonesian troops invaded. It is where they met their end.

The recent memorial ceremony in Bali generated more public interest, but the mood in Balibo in a fortnight will be just as sombre.

My brother, Tony, was the youngest of the journalists. The others were Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham, Malcolm Rennie and Brian Peters.

Mr Bracks visited East Timor in 2001. At the time, he said: "The house is now an important symbol of the ties between Australia and East Timor and the losses suffered by both countries in the cause of freedom."

Multiplex graduates Julie Hicks and Mark Bartoli battled red tape, the difficulties of construction in a poor country and logistical nightmares to restore the house. Thanks to them, it will open on Friday, October 31.

About 3000 locals, East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao, Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta, Mr Bracks and the English, New Zealand and Australian Ambassadors will attend.

For the first time, representatives of all the families of the slain journalists will come together.

A prayer service will be conducted by Melbourne Roman Catholic Bishop Hilton Deakin and his Timorese counterparts.

Following lengthy discussion with the local community, the house will be used as a creche, kindergarten, sewing centre, computer classroom and sports activity centre.

Mr Bartoli praised the work of troops of the peacekeeping force for their help.

"There was a lot of logistical work to be done as we had to get a lot of gear from Melbourne up to Balibo," he said.

"Most of the materials used have been donated by Victorian suppliers and subcontractors.

Multiplex workers found traces of the Australian flag painted on the house by journalist Greg Shackleton in 1975 to alert locals to the presence of foreign nationals.

Shalimar Vitan, program officer for World Vision East Timor, said her organisation had a long involvement in the former Portuguese territory.

"When the Victorian Government agreed to buy the house and give it back to the community we offered to liaise with the locals to see what they wanted," she said.

The story of what happened at Balibo was symbolic of Australia's relationship with Indonesia, said state MP Rob Hudson. he said events that occurred there in 1975 had come back to haunt Australia.

"We let down the East Timorese as well as the families of the journalists by not acting at the time," he said this week.

He praised the firms and individuals who helped rebuild the house.

"This includes Channel 7 and Channel 9, the Peace Keeping Forces (PKF), Qantas, lawyers Bernard Collaery and Associates, Air North, ANZ, Harcourt Education, Rotary and many others."


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