30 June 2021

Book Review: A Narrative of Denial: ‘Australia and the Indonesian Violation of East Timor’ by Peter Job

I was pleased to contribute to the first public launch of an outstanding book on Australian government Timor policy in the Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser years (1974-1982), held in Melbourne on 29 June 2021.

This is a book that should be read and be widely discussed in foreign policy circles.

What follows is a formal review based on my presentation at the launch.


A Narrative of Denial by Dr Peter Job is an important academic work. It is also an indictment of Australian policy on East Timor during the Fraser years. As such, it is a fitting complement to the Chega! report which includes East Timor’s own assessment of this period. It is to be hoped, however, that it is not ignored in official circles as Chega! has been.

Melbourne University Press (MUP) is to be complimented on lending its prestigious name to this work and giving it the status it deserves. Its excellent production is user-friendly and includes an instructive selection of images. These pictures tell the story. Those on the cover show PM Malcolm Fraser, the Toorak born patrician, looking down on Suharto, the Indonesian dictator, to whose wishes on East Timor Fraser was to defer. ….

…… Read full text of my review.

How to purchase: Good bookshops and directly through Melbourne University Press.

1 October 2019

The Dili launch of ‘The Day Hope and History Rhymed in East Timor’

“Our beloved Pat Walsh was influential in my diplomatic formation and laying the foundations for my role today in Timor-Leste’s foreign ministry. He always stressed the fundamental importance of working from first principles. His wonderful book will continue to inspire me (and to honour the political cat with only six lives that I had to leave behind in Jakarta!).” Vicky Fun Ha Tchong, Director General, Multilateral and Regional Affairs, Timor-Leste Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. 

Caption to come

Me with Ian Martin (right) and Vicky Tchong who launched the book in Dili.

The launch of my new book, The Day Hope and History Rhymed in East Timor and Other East Timor Stories, was held in Dili on 28 August 2019, two days before the 20th anniversary of the historic 30 August 1999 ballot referred to in the book’s title.

The site of the launch was significant as were many of the participants. It was held at the former UNAMET precinct, now a teachers’ college, from where the UN administered the ballot. Many documentaries of that time show images of terrified Timorese throwing children over the razor wire into the precinct to escape militias. 

The audience at the launch included many Timorese and internationals from 1999, including Ian Martin, the then head of UNAMET. 

The book was launched by my long-time friend Vicky Tchong, whom I had known from the late 1970s through my contacts with the East Timorese diaspora community in Melbourne.

Many thanks to Vicky for her warm tribute to me and the book in her lovely launch speech. And many thanks to supporting reactions from other friends, two of which I reproduce immediately below.

“I read The Day Hope and History Rhymed (a great title) from cover to cover on my flights back (to the UK), and enjoyed it hugely.” Ian Martin, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General to Timor-Leste’s 20th anniversary of the 1999 referendum.

“I deeply enjoyed each page of this book. I especially love its quirky angles, characters, nods to history (including bits not known by many) and its Seamus Heaney anchors.” Kieran Dwyer, bookworm, Senior Communications Officer, UNICEF, New York.


See here for some selected extracts.

The book is available for purchase in Timor-Leste, Indonesia and Australia.

20 November 2018

The great famine in Timor-Leste, 1977-1980

laga-girl-1979This year marks roughly the 40th anniversary of the great famine in Timor-Leste 1977-1980. Famine was employed by the Indonesian military to force civilians out of the mountains into their control. It was the major cause of war-related death during the Occupation.

Recently I travelled to Laga, east of Baucau, to visit one site where thousands died anonymously and are not commemorated. The photo opposite is a nameless girl photographed in Laga by Peter Rodgers in October 1979.

Click heading below to see my findings and recommendations to the Centro Nacional Chega! (CNC).

Laga famine 40th Anniversary: Integrated proposal to Centro Nacional Chega! (CNC)