Subject: AGE: Young Timorese want to keep calling Australia home

AGE Young Timorese want to keep calling Australia home

September 7, 2003

Holden cars and Aussie rules are part of folklore in Australia.

And they are the passions of Kiam Lay and Toto Djumanto, developed over a decade of growing up in Melbourne.

Djumanto, 21, a manager at McDonald's, avoids cruising Lygon Street but loves tinkering with his red VN Commodore while Lay, 20, is more interested in the Swans' finals chances.

The engineering student rates the team he has barracked for since he first set foot in Melbourne as a 50-50 chance to win the AFL premiership.

They play Port Adelaide today. It may be the only chance he'll have to see them try.

Lay and Djumanto, like dozens of others who fled Indonesian-occupied East Timor for Australia a decade ago as children seeking refugee status have no certainty about whether they will be allowed to stay in the country they consider home.

Djumanto's brother, Djono, in an accent that could not be mistaken for anything else, says he considers himself Australian.

The 18-year-old is in year 12 at Hawthorn Secondary College and lives with the family of his girlfriend, who was born in Australia and is part Greek.

Two months ago the plight of the young East Timorese adults who had grown up in Australia and are no longer considered refugees came to the attention of the State Government via the Brotherhood of St Laurence.

Brotherhood executive director Nic Frances had listened to the "extraordinarily moving" stories of young East Timorese people, still on bridging visas after a decade and uncertain of their futures.

He also knew of a close-ties visa that may enable them to stay in Australia, which can be obtained if applicants are 18 or over, independent, and have spent their formative years in Australia. It was also considered by lawyers their best shot at permanent residency.

The young East Timorese were eligible to apply for the visa, but there was a catch.

The $2000 application fee was too much for them .

"They were saying, 'we've been here 11 years. It's our home, it's all we know and now we're going to end up going back for some clerical mistake'," Father Frances said. "I rashly said 'this is ridiculous'."

Father Frances went to his local MP, Richard Wynne, who took the suggestion to Premier Steve Bracks that the state help with application costs.

The Premier agreed and last week the Government handed over $23,000 to help the Brotherhood pay for about 20 applicants to confirm Australia as their home.

It is estimated there may be about 30 or 40 more applicants. About a dozen have already been granted permanent residency through the close-ties visa.

Sitting outside the Sila cafe in Brunswick Street, one of Melbourne's first migrant cafes, Djono Djumanto, who was nine when he came to Australia after his family home was burnt down, talks of the counselling he has for flashbacks and anxiety over a possible return to East Timor.

"It worries me to go back and lots of Timorese kids have these things," he said.

"We can see on the TV, the street lights are not on and we're afraid if my sister goes on the street; anyone is capable of anything," he said.

Djono Djumanto wants to be a carpenter in Australia.

Father Frances says helping the applicants was also about giving something back.

"We have been saying thank you for being part of our schools, our life, our football teams or churches, whatever it is you're into - your car club" he said, motioning to Toto Djumanto.

"You should see his car, it's tremendous."

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