TIMOR TALK INTRODUCTION May 28 2000
In a neat house in a south-eastern suburb of Melbourne, Charmaine
Clarke, a young Aboriginal activist sat across a dining table and
faced three refugees from East Timor. It was the first time that Charmaine
had formally met anyone from East Timor. So too, for Elizabete Lim
Gomes, a writer and poet, and her friends, Jose da Costa and Sancho
de Silva, two students who had fled East Timor ahead of the Indonesian
military. They had never talked with an Indigenous Australian before.
Over bowls of hot vegetable soup each told stories of dispossession,
persecution, cultural deprivation, resistance and exile. As the hours
passed, a rare dialogue took place in which two indigenous groups
discovered a common bond, based on the struggle to reclaim the historical
lands of their people.
On this same day more than 250,000 Australians walked across Sydney
Harbour Bridge to show their support for reconciliation as part of
While the television screened images of people crossing the Harbour
Bridge into history, Charmaine, Elizabete, Jose and Sancho experienced
a special sense of solidarity as indigenous people for whom land rights
are central to their sense of identity and belonging.