Subject: Australians asked to dig deep to put Timorese back on the air

Sydney Morning Herald 30/10/99

Australians asked to dig deep to put Timorese back on the air


Mr Xanana Gusmao's coalition has appealed to Australian community broadcasters for help in providing radio facilities for East Timor.

The 14 repeater towers across the island, radio buildings and equipment were badly damaged by the violence that followed the independence vote on August 30. An assessment of what is salvageable is under way.

Groups in Australia are working on detailed delivery strategies for cheap and accessible radio communication, in a range of languages and dialects, to communities spread around East Timor.

"We are still working out what the technical needs are," said Mr Bruce Francis, executive officer of the National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters Council.

It was unclear whether new facilities would be needed. There are two towers in Dili, but a key question is what infrastructure has survived. "It's obviously an important thing in rehabilitating the nation in a psychological sense as well as socially and economically," Mr Francis said.

The request for help came from Mr Gusmao's Committee for National Resistance in East Timor.

With few resources, the Australians are considering both fixed and mobile facilities.

Training, technical expertise and fundraising were the top three priorities, Mr Francis said.

A big fundraiser is scheduled for a week from November 29 throughout the 300 stations in the Community Broadcasters Association of Australia, said the membership services manager, Ms Christina Alvarez. "We have about 100 people involved at each station, so that's 30,000 people who might toss in $10 each, plus listeners," she said.

Mr Francis said the Australian groups, which also include the National Indigenous Media Association of Australia, Radio for Print Handicapped and Australian Christian Broadcasters, may also solicit extra radios and batteries from Australian listeners.

Any new radio facilities would be community-access and would be used to inform the East Timorese people of humanitarian aid and developing political processes.

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