Subject: In tune with East Timor

Sunday Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia)

July 17, 2005 Sunday

In tune with East Timor

PAUL STEWART

East Timor has seen more than its share of bloodshed, but First Lady Kirsty Sword, with a little help from friends, is rebuilding the country on music. PAUL STEWART reports

IT was one of the scandals of the 1970s: Canada's First Lady Margaret Trudeau was hanging out with rock 'n' roll party animals the Rolling Stones. The infectious mix of rock stars and political glamour was lapped up by the world's media.

Now, Australia has its version of such a heady event, although our's is clearly without any sordid innuendo -- in fact, many great positives have flowed from it.

East Timor's First Lady, Kirsty Sword, wife of the fledgling country's first President, Xanana Gusmao, has formed a close friendship with celebrated Australian musician Paul Kelly.

The former Melbourne ballet dancer, who now mixes it with heads of governments from throughout the world, was like any gushing fan the first time she met Kelly, whom she had long admired.

Kelly is equally a big fan of the freedom-fighting Ms Sword, whose clandestine efforts helped free East Timor after 25 years of brutal Indonesian rule.

Kelly has toured East Timor several times and stayed as special guest of President Gusmao and his wife.

Likewise, Midnight Oil frontman-cum-politician Peter Garrett also made his way to East Timor and has become a friend and keen supporter of Ms Sword.

Such is Kelly's commitment to his new friend and East Timor that he has recently pulled together a compilation album Timor Leste: Freedom Rising.

For the album, Kelly called on big-name musical friends to contribute new material including The Hoodoo Gurus, The Living End, The Cruel Sea, Renee Geyer, The Cat Empire, John Butler Trio, Missy Higgins, Dallas Crane and Kasey Chambers.

Funds raised from the album will go to organisations working on maternal and childhood health in East Timor, including Life, Love And Health, an organisation set up by former Australian soldier Luke Gosling.

Travelling through poverty-stricken East Timor prompted Gosling to do something about the situation.

"In Timor I was taken in by the people and taken in by the beauty of the land," he said.

"While travelling in Timor I was assisted in much the same way our Australian troops were in 1942, often by people who were very poor and isolated.

"In my travels I learned of the terrible infant and maternal mortality situation and decided to establish Live, Love and Health."

Timor Leste: Freedom Rising proceeds will also go to The Alola Foundation, which was set up by Ms Sword with the aim of empowering East Timorese women.

Tragically, East Timorese women give birth to an average 7.4 children in their lifetime but they often succumb to one of the world's highest maternal and infant death rates.

Kelly, on tour in northern Australia at the moment with his bluegrass outfit The Stormwater Boys, took time out last week to praise the collaborative work of East Timorese musician Gil Santos, with whom he worked closely on the album.

"Our philosophy was to encourage artists to donate new recordings, un-released tracks, or hidden gems," he said.

"I want to thank all the artists involved in supporting the new CD especially those that came up with new songs.

"This is not a hastily thrown together compilation.

"It has been a labour of love."

Timor Leste: Freedom Rising was launched at Trades Hall in Carlton by President Xanana Gusmao and First Lady Kirsty Sword and is out now.


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