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"About 30 East Timorese people who have been in Australia for between 9 and 12 years have been told to leave. ... They have not been told why they are being deported. ... Why is this group singled out and told to leave, when people in identical situations are allowed to stay? ... What connection is there between the timing of these decisions and the current Timor Sea resources talks?" Sister Susan Connelly, Spokesperson on oil issues, Deputy Director of MMIETS
This page updated 29 Apr 05

Urgent Action - No Deportation For Timorese Asylum Seekers
Lateline TV Transcript - Deportation news shocks East Timor advocate
About MMIETS (the Mary MacKillop Institute for East Timorese Studies)




27 April 2005

Let’s back the Timorese 10 – 1

Write 1 letter or fax.
Get 10 other people to do the same.

Send to:  Prime Minister Mr John Howard    or    Senator Amanda Vanstone


House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Mr Howard:
Tel: (02) 6277 7700
Fax: (02) 6273 4100
Senator Vanstone:
Tel: (02) 6277 7860
Fax: (02) 6273 4144


* About 30 East Timorese people who have been in Australia for between 9 and 12 years have been told to leave.

* Some are married with children.

* All have worked hard and contributed to Australian life.

* They are among the last of the 1500 asylum seekers who escaped from the Indonesian occupation.  All the others, including some family members of these 30, have received permanent residency in Australia.

* As asylum seekers, they were not allowed to do University courses here.

* There are no prospects for them in East Timor.

* They have not been told why they are being deported.

* They have been offered a one-way ticket to Timor and $2000 re-settlement money which they will risk if they appeal again to the Minister.  Should such an appeal fail, they could be sent to a detention centre, losing the “financial incentive” to leave.

1. Why is this group singled out and told to leave, when people in identical situations are allowed to stay?
2. Why have these people not been given reasons for their deportation? 
3. Has the East Timorese Government been told that these people wish to return, when they clearly do not?
4. Two Timorese issues running simultaneously splits the energies of Timorese supporters, the media and the public. The position of the Government in one matter may receive less attention because of concentration on the other.

What connection is there between the timing of these decisions and the current Timor Sea resources talks?

For further information call:
Mary MacKillop Institute  02 9623 2847
Edmund Rice Centre  02 9764 1330

Source of this urgent action:

Sister Susan Connelly, RSJ; Spokesperson on oil issues, Deputy Director of MMIETS

Sister Susan Connelly
Mary MacKillop Institute of East Timorese Studies
PO Box 299
St Marys  NSW  1790
PH 02 9623 2847
FX 02 9623 1573


Australian Broadcasting Corporation



Broadcast: 27/04/2005

Deportation news shocks East Timor advocate

Reporter: Tony Jones

TONY JONES: Sister Susan Connolly is one of Australia's best-known and longest-serving advocates for the East Timorese people. She's the Assistant Director of the Mary MacKillop Institute for East Timor Studies in Sydney and she joins us now. Thank you for joining us.

SR CONNOLLY: Thank you, Tony.

TONY JONES: The government's effectively saying here, "We've been extremely compassionate. We've allowed more than 1,400 East Timorese to remain in the country and become Australians. You should trust us that we have good and compelling reasons to reject this 50." Why don't you trust them?

SR CONNOLLY: I have absolutely no evidence that would assure me that if I were to put my trust in anything that any member of this Government says. I just - I just have no trust in it at all. I would need independent confirmation of the truth of a statement, and I say that after coming in here tonight, Tony, not knowing before I came in tonight that the accusation, the unsubstantiated accusation, of serious character deficiencies has been made against 50 people, some of whom I know quite well. Now, I would respectfully suggest that the Government put up or shut up.

TONY JONES: Do you have any idea at all what Senator McGauran is getting at here when he refers to serious character grounds as being the reasons?

SR CONNOLLY: I certainly don't. I do know of, in a few cases, there have been indiscretions, indiscretions that I would look at as being of more of the late teenage variety, and I'm sure...

TONY JONES: Not serious criminal indiscretions or convictions?

SR CONNOLLY: Certainly not. Serious enough for a person perhaps to have been - to serve periodic detention. I know that particular person has. Wasn't serious enough to be sent to jail. Has undertaken that punishment with tremendous respect for our legal system, happy to do it - as happy as you could be in such circumstance - coming to the end of his time. But...

TONY JONES: You're saying that's the exception rather than the rule?

SR CONNOLLY: Absolutely the exception. I'm absolutely shocked at this, and I think in a country like Australia, no matter who you are, you should have the right not to have your character blackened just like that by a statement from anybody on national television.

TONY JONES: How many of the 50 - I know you know of a lot of the cases indirectly. How many of the 50 do you know directly?

SR CONNOLLY: I would know between 6 to 10 of those directly. I would say I know 6 very, very well.

TONY JONES: You know they have no serious character deficiencies?

SR CONNOLLY: As well as I could know that about any person that I know.

TONY JONES: You do know specifically one young man on that list, on the rejected list, a young man who came here, I understand, after witnessing or even being caught up in a massacre?

SR CONNOLLY: That's right. He was caught up in the Dili massacre, so he has those memories, and like all the young ones that we know, they came here as traumatised and bewildered teenagers, and we've come to know and love them over these years, seeing them grow, seeing them grow into compassionate and loving people who look on Australia as their home. I mean, they've lived in Australia for nearly half their life, so you would look on it as your home, wouldn't you?

TONY JONES: Do you know how that particular young man feels about this decision?

SR CONNOLLY: Yes. He is upset about it. But like the lady who was just interviewed, he's mystified. He's saying, "Don't they like me? What might they do to me?" He's a bit afraid, actually, of perhaps pursuing it because he doesn't want anything against him. It's a terrible dilemma for young people like this to be in.

TONY JONES: Do you think some of these cases, the rationale for some of these cases might go back before they were in Australia, to events in East Timor?

SR CONNOLLY: Well, if that's the case and if there's such terrible concern in the Government about making sure we get rid of these people, why have they been allowed to stay in Australian society, possibly contaminating the rest of us, for all these 10 to 12 years? I mean, there's something fishy here, Tony. I don't know what it is, but I feel there's something rotten in the state, and it smells like a rat. I don't quite know the style of rat, but there's something smelling here. My own personal feeling is that - see, the Government has been receiving very bad press lately over the Timor Sea issue. A lot of Australians are waking up at last to the fact that we're not perhaps as generous as we have liked to portray ourselves. And that's due to those wonderful advertisements paid by Ian Melrose where you get the maps and the facts, which is more than you get usually from Government sources.

TONY JONES: But go back to the - if that were the case, go back to what the Government has done in a broader level, of more than 1,400 East Timorese are going to be allowed to stay here. This is, in the end, a tiny minority. You're saying you simply don't understand why...

SR CONNOLLY: Tony, nobody in Australia, no Timorese in Australia was told yesterday or today that they were staying. That news is old. Mr Ruddock was responsible for most of those to come in. That news is - it's like resuscitating a corpse, really, to give us a picture of this vision of Australia being so generous, you know, now we're going to allow all these people to stay, whereas we've known for months that they were. The news today, which is tucked down in paragraph 3 in this story, the news is that 30 - well, now we hear 50 people - are being told to go. That's the news, and it shouldn't be dressed up as, you know, just a little bit of a story where we're supposed to be so generous.

TONY JONES: What's life going to be like, do you believe, for the 50 people who go back to what is effectively their homeland, after all, and now an independent country?

SR CONNOLLY: There aren't many prospects for anybody in Timor at the moment. There's terrible hunger in Timor. It's a shocking thing to have to say. It's not as if these people are being sent back to East Timor having imbibed wonderful knowledge and skills in Australia. They haven't been allowed to undertake university courses because that's against the asylum seeker thing. They've been allowed to do certificate courses at TAFE, but not diploma courses. So there's not a great deal they can take back, and when they get back there, if they do, there's certainly not much offering.

TONY JONES: Of course, these 50 can have a final appeal of the minister's decision.

SR CONNOLLY: That's right, yes.

TONY JONES: If they do have a final appeal, however, they put at risk the financial package, the incentive package which is being offered to them, which could be, for a family, up to $10,000?

SR CONNOLLY: Yes. They also put at risk their - like, the Government has no obligation to give them a bridging visa if such an appeal was rejected. So therefore they may be looking at detention centres. So it's very serious business, and really...

TONY JONES: You mean if they were to appeal, they could be sent straight to a detention centre?

SR CONNOLLY: No, this is how I understand it - I stand to be corrected - but if a second appeal to the minister fails, there is no guarantee they would get a bridging visa, so therefore, they would be looking at a detention centre.

TONY JONES: Do you expect that many of these people will appeal? As you say, you know some of them personally?

SR CONNOLLY: Well, I think it's come as such a shock in this Anzac week, such a shock, when memories have been brought back to what the Timorese have done for us. Tony, no other people on the face of the earth have lost so many people in exchange for befriending Australian soldiers as the Timorese did. It's something that we should remember like we remember all our war stories. Like, the Anzac spirit - Australia has no monopoly on courage, and Australians have got no monopoly on what we call the Anzac spirit, either. The Timorese have stood by us. We have a huge debt to pay for them, and it's not just out of the sense of debt; it's the sense of shared brotherhood in a shared history. It is unique, and they should be treated uniquely. There is another thing. If we treat people who are so close to us, in history and geography, like this, what chance have other people got?

TONY JONES: Sister Susan Connolly, we'll have to leave it there. We thank you very much for taking the time to come and talk to us tonight on Lateline.

SR CONNOLLY: Thank you, Tony.

About MMIETS (the Mary MacKillop Institute for East Timorese Studies)

This info last updated: 29 Apr 2005

MMIETS is a Sydney and Dili based charitable institute established in 1994
by the Religious of St. Joseph (the order of the Blessed Mary MacKillop - Australia's first and only saint officially recognised by the Roman Catholic church) in response to an appeal for help by Bishop Belo (Diocese of Dili) and in consultation with the East Timorese community. It was created to assist in meeting the cultural, educational, health and material needs of the people of East Timor. MMIETS is safeguarding East Timorese culture by promoting the use of the language Tetum within the Church and general education and is developing a Tetum literacy program to this end. 

MMIETS Timor Sea Justice Statements (Compiled by Dez Wildwood, Back Door):

Sister Josephine Mitchell, RSJ (Religious of St. Joseph - "Brown Jo's")

Spokesperson on oil issues, Deputy Director of MMIETS:
Sister Susan Connelly, RSJ

Reception / Secretarial:
Noreen Nicoara

Editor and Supervisor of Linguistics (based in Dili):
Father Leão da Costa, Director of Catholic Education, Fundação São Paulo

Linguist, Educator (based in Dili):
Sister Teresa (Tess) A. Ward, FDNSC (Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart)

Timorese Tetun language expertise (based in Sydney):
Luisa da Cunha Marques
Filomena de Oliveira

Health worker/educator, nurse:
Sister Joan Westblade, LCM (Little Company of Mary)

MMIETS - Sydney, Australia:
20 Mamre Rd, St Marys
PO Box 299, St Marys NSW 1790
Phone: 02 9623 2847
Fax: 02 9623 1573

Institutu Mary MacKillop - Bekora, Dili Timur, Timor Lorosae:
New larger premises now located in Bekora.
PO Box 427, Dili, East Timor (via Darwin)

Timor Sea Justice Issues:

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