Subject: Tour of troubled nation

Also: Award for shirt sifter; Front line against pests

North Shore Times (Wed) (Australia)

September 8, 2004 Wednesday

Tour of troubled nation

EAST Timor is bravely trying to rebuild itself, but is struggling with a lack of understanding and appropriate aid.

Lane Cove Councillor Fran Teirney recently returned from a study tour of the fledgling nation with Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA, the overseas aid agency of the ACTU.

The agency runs projects including carpentry and blacksmithing workshops.

Mrs Teirney, who is deputy president of the Australian Services Union, was not prepared for the extent of chaos, disrepair and poverty she found there, five years after Indonesian troops sacked Dili and massacred Timorese for voting for autonomy.

"It's extraordinary the extent of the physical devastation," Cr Teirney said.

"Even though it was in 1999 that everything was trashed, there's still just the shells of buildings. . . open drains and corrugated iron everywhere."

Perhaps the most frustrating thing was seeing how misguided many overseas donations were, although the intention was good.

For instance, APHEDA's sewing group have been given a roomful of electric sewing machines which they cannot use for lack of electricity.

Cr Tierney said the best assistance for East Timor, and the most logical, would be a fairer split of the oil resources in the Timor Gap. Meanwhile, she advised people who wished to help to phone the consulate Sydney, 9239 0060 for advice on what was presently needed.

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Hume Moreland Leader (Australia)

September 8, 2004 Wednesday

Award for shirt sifter

By Janet Howie

SEARCHING through the dirty clothes of Australian soldiers played an underrated part in the campaign to rebuild East Timor.

But the Australian quarantine officers who conducted these and many other searches in East Timor have now been honoured.

Roxburgh Park resident Tamara Iwasiw received a plaque last month in recognition of her work as a quarantine officer in East Timor during 1999 and 2000.

Ms Iwasiw, an import clearance manager at Quarantine House in Tullamarine, worked in Darwin and East Timor over Christmas/New Year 1999 and then again for nine months from June, 2000.

Her job involved inspecting the kits, baggage, equipment and vehicles of Defence Force personnel leaving East Timor to ensure unwanted weeds or food did not enter Australia.

Ms Iwasiw said the main concern was siam weed, a small seed that stuck easily to clothes.

In hot, humid conditions, she had to go through clothes that had experienced some rough wear.

"It wasn't very pleasant going through their dirty laundry," Ms Iwasiw admitted.

The quarantine officers also conducted pre-clearance checks on civilians and personnel from other countries.

Cultural differences, language barriers and ignorance of Australian quarantine requirements added to the challenges.

Ms Iwasiw said working with the defence forces and mission groups allowed her to see the poor living conditions of the East Timorese, which she described as an "eye-opener".

"It made me appreciate Australia so much more," she said.

"You don't realise how lucky we are."

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Melbourne/Yarra Leader (Australia)

September 6, 2004 Monday

Front line against pests

By Rachel Kleinman

IN A CLIMATE of security risks, a giant African snail and a Siamese weed do not sound like major threats to Australian shores.

But North Melbourne resident Derek Van Leest, an officer with the Australian Quarantine Service, went into combat against these little-known enemies during a recent posting in East Timor.

Mr Van Leest was among officers sent to Australia's near neighbour in May to inspect Australian army vehicles, equipment and personal effects before they were sent home.

They inspected nearly 9000 Australian army personnel and their equipment and more than 1400 support vehicles and machines.

Invasive pests such as Siam weed and the giant African snail, both present in East Timor, could devastate agriculture and the environment if they were allowed into Australia.

Mr Van Leest checked armoured personnel carriers, jeeps and uniforms during his two-week visit.

He also had an opportunity to see some of East Timor, his first visit to a developing country, and said he was quite taken aback.

"There are some things we take for granted, creature comforts, that they wouldn't even consider," he said.

"It is just a different way of life; they seem to get a lot more enjoyment out of community living."

Federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss said quarantine officers had also helped East Timor's government establish the country's quarantine service.

They had helped train staff to protect the country's fledgling agriculture industries from diseases in South-East Asia, including foot and mouth disease, rabies and bird flu.

Mr Van Leest and other quarantine staff members who served in East Timor were presented with plaques in a ceremony in Canberra last month.


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