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Home > News > 2019 > September > Medal of the Order of Timor-Leste presented to Australian union movement

Medal of the Order of Timor-Leste presented to Australian union movement

East__Timor_Rally_September_1999_1.jpgThe Government of Timor-Leste has presented the Australian union movement with the Medal of the Order of Timor-Leste, for it’s role in securing independence for the country. 

The Australian union movement has long acknowledged the importance of working collectively to make change, including reaching out to help those in need abroad.

Such collective action was evident in the support our movement provided to the Timorese people 20 years ago when they were opposing Indonesian occupation. 

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) President Michele O’Neil travelled to Timor-Leste last week to receive the medal on behalf of the Australian union movement.  

“Australian unions are proud to stand in solidarity with the people of Timor-Leste and our relationship continues to be strong,” said O’Neil.

“We are inspired by the strength, courage and resilience of the Timorese people and thank them for this great honour.” 

Campaign for independence 

20 years ago, the Timorese people voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia after 24 years of military occupation.

Following violent Indonesian Government reprisals to the referendum, Australian unions campaigned for UN peacekeeping forces to enter Timor-Leste and organised to provide medical and other crucial supplies to the Timorese people.

In Australia, unions held rallies and blockaded airports to prevent the national airline of Indonesia, Garuda airlines, flights from taking off in solidarity with the people of Timor-Leste.

After independence was won, Australian trade unionists helped to train Timorese workers, and assisted in building emergency shelters and community facilities.

Australian unions and APHEDA Union Aid Abroad, the global justice organisation of the Australian union movement, continue to work with and support the people of Timor-Leste today.

IEUA contribution 

In late 1999, just prior to the independence vote, our federal body the Independent Education Union of Australia (IEUA) sent a delegation to East Timor, which included IEUA-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke.

During his time in East Timor, he wrote of the level of destruction that had taken place, especially to infrastructure and resources needed for education.

“Some schools are little more than a concrete shell with perhaps some furniture, it is heart-rending to see how children are expected to learn in those circumstances,” Mr Burke wrote.

Following East Timor’s establishment as a sovereign nation, our union assisted to rebuild schools through various appeals and fundraising efforts by members in the early 2000’s.

Our members also provided much needed assistance through the provision of Alola Maternity Packs and through the Doors and Windows for East Timor Appeal.

Working Women’s Centre of Timor-Leste

Our union's federal body continues to support the people of Timor-Leste through the Working Women’s Centre of Timor-Leste (WWCTL), by providing ongoing funding through APHEDA.

The centre was established to provide much needed support for working Timorese women, who have little knowledge of their workplace rights or the legal protections they are entitled to, especially against discrimination and harassment.

The centre has also been working towards a Domestic Workers Bill which has been drafted before Timor-Leste parliament and is anticipated to be passed into legislation later this year

The Bill aims to bring significant industrial rights to all domestic workers in Timor-Leste.

To learn more about WWCTL, click here.


Authorised by Terry Burke, Independent Education Union of Australia – Queensland & Northern Territory Branch, Brisbane.