From Timor Leste to Australia

Mt Matebian, Timor Leste, from a distance.
Mt Matebian, Timor Leste, from a distance.
Image: Dr Prof António Manuel de Almeida Serra
Source: Cecilia Gonçalves

We fled East Timor, now known as Timor Leste, in search of a safe haven and we landed in Australia. Here we settled and grew, valuing freedom and democracy.

For 9000 of us, Australia is our second home, with the largest group, 5000 people, in Victoria. We speak mainly four languages: English, Hakka, Portuguese and Tetun, the East Timorese language that links all ethnic groups.

For 24 years, while our homeland was under Indonesian rule, we worked to preserve and promote our culture here in Australia. Through traditional dances and songs we showed the world we existed as a people. We did it for ourselves and for those left behind in Timor Leste.

In 1999 we achieved what the world thought was impossible: independence, ukun rasik a’an in Tetun.

All of us in Australia and in our homeland have suffered the loss of family members in this struggle.

The annual celebration of All Souls Day, 2 November, is devoted to remembering all our departed. We honour our ancestors with a ritual called Se Matebian, which means ‘to whom this soul belongs.’

Image Gallery

East Timorese community performance, 1989 East Timorese cultural awareness day, 1985 Celebration of All Souls Day