On ANZAC Day eve, we’re thinking about the “debt of honour” Australians owe to our friends and neighbours in Timor-Leste.
Although many Australians do know it, the bond between Australia and Timor-Leste goes back to WWII, when brave “criados” (lay soldiers) and villagers supported Australian troops who were fighting guerrilla warfare to impede the advance of the Japanese army.
In 1942, when the mission was deemed too dangerous, Australia withdrew. Japanese troops massacred more than 40,000 civilians (up to 70,000, or one in ten of the population, by some estimates). It is said that no other nation suffered such horrific civilian losses supporting Australians in war.
Our government dropped leaflets telling the Timorese people “Os vossos amigos noa vos esquecem” (“Your friends do not forget you”). Today Australian veterans and service men and women still speak of the “debt of honour” owed to the people of Timor-Leste. This is one of the reasons Australia led the international peacekeeping force that supported the transition to independence in 1999-2000, under the command of our East Timor Hearts Fund patron General Peter Cosgrove.
Through our work providing life-saving surgery, and prevention, education and research programs, East Timor Hearts Fund is proud to play a role in repaying that debt.
Lest We Forget.
Photo via Dare Memorial.