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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (16 May) . . Page.. 1753 ..

MRS CROSS (continuing):

death and destruction were frightful, as schools, businesses and other buildings were swept up in a spiteful, scorched backlash.

For those of us seated at home in our relative comfort, it was almost impossible to comprehend such spite. Many of us wept in shock and helplessness. But if we were weeping at the tragic turn of events, how much more terrible must it have been for the peoples of East Timor in the midst of it? I pray none of us will ever see or experience the like of it again.

But the proud, tough, resilient people of East Timor have lifted themselves from the ashes, not just figuratively but in cruel fact, and are not looking back on the horror but are looking ahead as they make their own way along what they recognise will not be an easy road. That the way may be bumpy does not deter them. They see themselves as being up to travelling it, but a few helping hands along the way will not go astray.

Today East Timor is rebuilding. The first democratic elections have been held; a constitution has been written and adopted. Peace, which came at a heavy price, has at last been established. In a few days time, the eyes of the world will again be on East Timor, but this time we will be watching a celebration as the transition to self-determination is completed and East Timor stands on its feet as the first new nation of the new millennium. Despite this glorious new beginning on 20 May, we recognise that it is still just the beginning. The world's ongoing commitment to East Timor will still be needed.

In preparing myself for the conference I attended recently to respond to the President's opening address, and subsequently in seeing some of Dili and the surrounding areas, I became very mindful of the challenges that lie ahead. But that feeling is tempered by the knowledge that in the past two years much has already been achieved in the rebuilding of this country.

Nations from around the world have come forward to help the people of this country. I know that the people of Australia have undertaken a significant financial commitment to East Timor's reconstruction and development, with focus on governments, education, health, roadworks, water supply, sanitation, rural development and other forms of assistance. We have done so willingly, not simply out of duty.

Despite this humble beginning to nationhood, the future of East Timor is bright. Economic estimates of resource development potential offer real hope. However, I suggest that this nation's greatest resource is its wonderful people. After what they have been through, they should be so proud of themselves. They fill me with admiration.

President-elect, Mr Xanana Gusmao, is an extraordinary man who exemplifies the spirit needed to overcome the challenges that lie ahead. According to media reports, Mr Gusmao has said that he would rather just be a pumpkin farmer and that he may have nothing more to give to the nation. No doubt the idea of a well-earned rest and growing pumpkins is very appealing, and no doubt that option can fill some happy days. But as far as having nothing more to give, he is too humble. He has demonstrated over the years those qualities of strength, courage and calm steadfastness that are needed now as much as they ever were.

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