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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (2 April) . . Page.. 1274 ..

MRS CROSS (continuing):

(1) noting:

(a) the reported decision of the Australian Government to deport from Australia 1600 East Timorese people;

(b) the fact that most of these people have been in Australia for a time exceeding 10 years;

(c) the contribution of the East Timorese community to the fabric of multiculturalism; and

(2) recognising:

(a) the pain and suffering of the people of East Timor, particularly those who fled their country to escape persecution including threats of torture; and

(b) the cruelty of uprooting children of East Timorese who have grown up as members of the Australian Community; and

(3) calls upon the Chief Minister to write to the Prime Minister, Mr Howard and the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Mr Ruddock, expressing these concerns.

Australia has had a lengthy relationship with East Timor, a relationship that has had its ups and downs. During World War II, Australia sent troops to East and West Timor to establish what it hoped would be a deterring presence but what was in reality only a token force. In the west they were readily defeated by advancing Japanese forces, but in the east Australian special forces continued to operate, mainly in an intelligence gathering role, with the assistance of East Timorese.

Following the sudden withdrawal from, or abandonment of, East Timor by the Portuguese, there broke out a vicious civil war between the communist-leaning liberation front, Fretilin, and pro-Indonesian forces, which wreaked great devastation on the people and the country. When Fretilin looked like getting the upper hand and therefore possibly introducing communism into the region again-remember the fear of communism that prevailed at the time, particularly in Indonesia-in December 1975 Indonesian forces invaded East Timor to restore stability and, of course, stayed there.

And Australia, no doubt feeling embarrassed from time to time, nevertheless went along with that fait accompli up to recent times, when things finally fell apart and tiny East Timor became an independent nation after a long and painful journey. It has been reported that the members of this group fled to Australia after the massacre at Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili in November 1991, which sounds like a good reason to me.

With bridging visas they settled down in the safety of Australia and began to establish lives here, working, paying taxes and raising families. They lived among Australians. You could say that they became Australians, adapting readily to life here and fitting in seamlessly, unlike some other groups that seek refuge in Australia.

I am talking about a small group of people from a small neighbouring country with whom we have had, and still have, a close, even special, relationship. These are people who have spent a decade in Australia-some of them have known only Australia-and have readily and easily adapted to life in the compatible Australian society. Their fledgling nation remains beset by many problems-particularly staggeringly high

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