NINE Timorese war veterans will stand alongside Australian veterans during next week’s Anzac Day Mass in Brisbane’s St Stephen’s Cathedral.
The attendance of Timorese veterans is becoming a tradition and has an extra poignancy in 2019 – 20 years after the country’s vote for independence.
Timor Leste President Francisco Guterres joined a contingent of veterans visiting Queensland in 2017, taking part in Anzac Day commemorations in Brisbane, and also visiting Lavarack Barracks in Townsville.
Close links between Aussie diggers and Timorese fighters date back to World War Two, and continued after Timor Leste’s often-brutal transition to independence.
During the Pacific conflict against the Japanese, more than 60,000 Timorese perished, many, as they supported Australian Commandos.
More than 35,000 Australian troops served in Timor from 1999-2012, and since independence in 2002, Australia has helped East Timor rebuild its armed forces, and there is a warm friendship between the veterans of both nations.
Relations have matured further with ongoing collaboration of veterans in healing and rehabilitation through the SE Queensland-based Veteran Care Association and its Timor Awakening programme, led by former Marist Ashgrove student Michael Stone.
The Timor Leste delegation to Brisbane this ANZAC Day will be led by Jorge Alves, a clandestine intelligence commander during Timor’s independence struggle against Indonesia, and now a leader of his country’s veterans taskforce.
QLD RSL and Veterans Care Association have supported Timorese veterans in efforts to form their own returned soldiers league.
This year marks the twentieth anniversary of Timor-Leste’s UN-supported vote for independence.
As with previous delegation visits to Queensland the visit provides an opportunity for Timor-Leste veterans and officials to learn from Australian institutions, communities and initiatives that commemorate military history and support veterans and their families.
They will attend Brisbane’s Anzac Day dawn service, march in the Anzac parade, and attend Mass at St Stephen’s Cathedral Mass starting at 8am.