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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 17 September 2015) . . Page.. 3164 ..

I think we all bring a perspective to this. As I said yesterday in a speech, Mr Doszpot is a former refugee. He has experienced the trauma of dislocation from his homeland and found himself homeless when coming to a new country. He understands this, I think, better than all of us.

I share my own experience. The war in Iraq is one that I have seen firsthand. I had friends who were killed in that conflict, Iraqi friends. I was there to train the Iraqi army. There were those that did not make it out, and I am very proud that this nation, when we left that conflict, accepted a great number of our former interpreters and their families to settle in Australia. And there is no doubt that, if we had not done so, many of them would not be alive today.

For those of you who have been at the front of conflicts where refugees are affected by those conflicts—it is an incredibly traumatic experience—the sight of refugees who have fled their homeland and found themselves in desperate circumstances with nothing but what they carry on their backs is something you cannot see without remaining unmoved.

When it comes to this debate, I take this opportunity because it is, like many events involving refugees, forgotten. We tend to focus on the events of the day and move on. But in East Timor in the conflict in 1999 tens of thousands of people fled from East Timor into West Timor and found themselves in refugee camps in some of the most appalling conditions. People tried to help, but they were appalling conditions. Then the floods came.

I will read you an extract from the Guardian of that time. At that time I was serving with the United Nations on the border of East Timor and West Timor. Our job was to help coordinate the repatriation of refugees through the border, and we spent many times at the border junction points watching refugees coming back from West Timor into East Timor. I read from this article to give members a sense of what I saw:

Scores of people have died and tens of thousands have lost their homes in floods sweeping along the border between Indonesia and West Timor and Independent East Timor. Hundreds of people are still missing and the rescuers who flew over the area for the first time yesterday said that they saw people clinging to trees and rooftops and groups sheltering on small patches of high ground as muddy water more than two metres deep swirled for mile after mile, sweeping away access roads.

Staff coordinating relief efforts at the local government office in Atambua, a hill town 25 miles north of the flooded area, confirmed 81 bodies had been found. Local media reports that the death toll is at least 140. The vast majority of the victims found so far are East Timorese women and children who were living in squalid refugee camps in the West Malaka district of West Timor when the floods began on Tuesday.

Local authorities are blaming a combination of prolonged monsoon season rains and a tidal surge caused by the full moon for the scale of the disaster. We still have no idea how many people have died. One of the rescue coordinators said in Atambua: “People are describing how their relatives were washed out to sea. In

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