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Governor-General Joins Timor Troops
Anzac Day 25th April 20th 2001
Governor-General Sir William Deane has attended a dawn Anzac Day service at the Australian Military Headquarters in Balibo, East Timor, just 6 km from the West Timor border.
Sir William was flown to the militia frontline by a Blackhawk helicopter yesterday and spent the night on a stretcher under canvas.
In Dili, about 2,000 people attended a moving service on a beach west of the East Timor capital.
Six wreaths were laid at a makeshift sandbag and stone memorial in memory of the six Australian and New Zealand servicemen who have died in East Timor during the past two years.
The Governor-General flew to Dili this morning to attend a service at the Catholic Cathedral. His final engagement will be a wreath laying ceremony at Dare, in the hills behind Dili. It is home to the East Timorese who died in the resistance fighting against the Japanese during World War II.
Soldier Injured in East Timor Attack
30th April 01 00.15 (AEST)
An Australian soldier in East Timor has been injured in a machete attack when he and another soldier were confronted by armed bandits earlier today.
An Australian Defence Force spokesman says the two soldiers, part of the United Nations peacekeeping force, were off duty at a beach west of Dili when three men tried to rob them.
The spokesman says one of the soldiers was cut on the right hand before the other showed his gun and the bandits ran off.
The spokesman says the soldier required surgery and is recovering in the UN hospital in Dili in a stable condition.
His next of kin has been notified and the attempted robbery and assault is being investigated by authorities.
Army Prepares for East Timor Election, End of Wet Season
Wednesday 9 May 3:55 PM
Australian troops are bracing for a possible increase in violence as East Timor's wet season approaches its end and the country gears up for national elections.
Australian Defence Force spokesman in East Timor Major David Munro said there was an expectation that the militias in West Timor could lift their activities with the end of the wet weather.
It is also feared that there could be an increase in violence and crime within East Timor in the lead-up to the August 30 election.
"Because East Timor does not have a history of democratic processes like Australia, you always prepare for the worst case," Major Munro said.
"They are expecting some civil disturbance to occur, but to what level we don't know."Therefore we are preparing for that. It's just about being prepared. Everyone is preparing to be very busy during the election period. "We don't know what the militias are going to do."
Australian Soldier Accidentally Shot in East Timor
Thurs May 17th 2001
An Australian soldier serving in East Timor has been injured after the accidental discharge of a rifle.
Army spokesman Major David Munroe says a bullet fragment cut the soldier's forehead after a fellow soldier accidentally fired his weapon.
He says the soldier was only slightly injured and continued on patrol after he was treated.
An investigation into the incident is underway.
Spy Fears Force Army E-mail Bans
20th May 01
THE Department of Defence has banned soldiers from accessing personal emails because doing so may compromise the department's top-secret super computers.
Soldiers will face a security investigation for logging on to popular free email services while using the department's restricted network.
"The use of services such as Hotmail, Excite and Freemail leaves the defence network more vulnerable to viruses and hackers," defence information systems head Patrick Hannan told Army newspaper.
NZ Offers Extension to East Timor Peacekeeping Force
The New Zealand Government says it has offered to extend its participation in the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operation in East Timor.
Defence Minister Mark Burton says it is clear the UN peacekeeping force will probably be required in East Timor beyond May 2002, when the New Zealand contribution is due to end.
He says New Zealand is willing to extend the deployment until November 2002. New Zealand currently has a battalion of around 700 troops, and a helicopter squadron on service as part of a force of about 9,000 UN peacekeepers.
The battalion has been patrolling a border area to prevent infiltration from militia based in Indonesia's West Timor.
Four New Zealanders have died while on duty with the UN operation.
Aussie Police Officer Stabbed in Dili
14:09 AEDT Thu 7 Jun 2001
A Victorian policeman serving in East Timor has been stabbed, police said.
A Victoria Police spokesman said the officer was jogging in the capital, Dili, on Tuesday afternoon when a man with a knife approached the him and stabbed him in the arm and stomach.
The spokesman said Detective Senior-Constable Andrew Atkinson, 32, was a member of the United Nations peacekeeping force in East Timor.
Sen-Constable Atkinson was treated in the local hospital and had since checked out of hospital, he said.
He was expected to return to work in the next few days, the spokesman said.
His attacker was yet to be caught, he said.
A Department of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman said the matter was being investigated
Minister to Visit East Timor
Sat 11th June 2001
Veterans Affairs Minister, Bruce Scott, will today lead an RSL and Army delegation to East Timor to visit Australian forces assisting the United Nations.
Mr. Scott, Army Chief Lieutenant-General Peter Cosgrove and the eight member RSL national executive will talk to troops in Dili, Maliana and Balibo.
A group of about 1,500 Australians are working in East Timor as part of the UN Transitional Authority helping the country with the aftermath of it's vote for independence from Indonesia.
East Timor Volunteers Get High Praise
Monday 11 June 12:28 PM
The extraordinary efforts of Australian volunteers in East Timor are being recognised with special thank-you ceremonies nationwide.
NSW Liberal Senator Marise Payne - an official observer at the country's independence ballot on August 30, 1999 - said the Australian effort was immeasurably important.
"We're as a nation very giving, very supportive. We put in enormous volunteer effort in a range of areas," she told the Seven Network.
"Recognition in things like the Queen's Birthday honours adds to all of that today.
"But to see ordinary Australians doing extraordinary things, and in many ways that's what this is about, is what's been incredible in East Timor."
More than 300 Australian volunteers, including mechanics, teachers, plumbers and nurses who have helped rebuild East Timor, are receiving certificates at special thank-you ceremonies in each capital city today.
Senator Payne, who has just returned from another visit to East Timor, said when Australian Volunteers International called for help in East Timor a couple of years ago, they had more than 2,000 applications in the first 24 hours and support had continued.
She said the East Timorese were now preparing for the forthcoming August election - the next stage of the independence process.
Militia Fire at UN Peacekeepers in E Timor
Friday 15 June 2:59 PM
United Nations peacekeepers and anti-independence militiamen exchanged gunfire near East Timor's border with Indonesia, but no-one was injured, UN officials said on Friday.
Australian UN troops clashed with about five militiamen yesterday, about 11 kilometres south of the East Timorese border town of Batugade, said UN peacekeeping spokesman Captain Jeff Squire. The paramilitaries fled after the gunbattle.
Groups of armed pro-Indonesian militia have infiltrated East Timor since the arrival of international peacekeepers in 1999. Last year, two peacekeepers were killed in militia attacks close to the border.
Indonesia Detectives Probe NZ Soldier's Slaying
Friday 13 July 6:13 PM
A team of Indonesian police will visit New Zealand to investigate the killing of a United Nations peacekeeper in East Timor last year.
Defence Minister Mark Burton said the Indonesian police would interview witnesses, including members of Private Leonard Manning's New Zealand army battalion. Manning, a New Zealander, was on patrol in East Timor July 24 last year near the border with West Timor when he was killed, his body mutilated and his weapon stolen.
Annan Calls for Significant UN Presence in E Timor
Thursday 26 July 4:20 PM
Secretary-General Kofi Annan outlined plans for a significant UN peacekeeping and police presence in East Timor after its independence next year to ensure security for the fledgling nation.
"Infiltration by militia groups remains at a relatively low level but, as long as they are not disbanded by the government of Indonesia, they will continue to pose a threat to both the internal stability of East Timor and to the well-being and security of refugees remaining in West Timor," the secretary-general said yesterday in a report to the Security Council.
The Security Council plans to discuss the situation on Monday.
E Timor Militia, Peacekeepers Clash
28 Jul 01
NEW Zealand UN peacekeepers and suspected militiamen exchanged gunfire near East Timor's border with Indonesia today, but no one was injured, UN officials said.
A group of armed men fired a single shot at a company of New Zealand troops stationed close to the border town of Tilomar, said UN peacekeeping spokesman Captain Isabelito Sanchez.
The troops returned fire before the suspected militia group fled the area, he said.
The incident - the latest in a series of border clashes - comes as East Timor prepares for elections on August 30 to choose a constituent assembly. There are fears that violence could disrupt the polls.
Soldier Killed Near E Timor Border
July 29th 01
AN Indonesian soldier was shot and killed close to the border with East Timor, near where UN peacekeepers clashed with suspected militiamen, state news agency Antara reported.
First Sgt Lirman Hadimu, 21, was shot in the chest yesterday in Indonesian West Timor, about 20 metres from the border with East Timor, Antara said, quoting unidentified military sources. The report did not say in what circumstance the soldier was shot, nor the suspected identity of his killers.
UN peacekeepers said yesterday that they exchanged gunfire with a group of suspected militiamen in East Timor near Tilomar town. That is 6 kilometres from where the Indonesian soldier's body was found. UN officials said today that they had no knowledge of the soldier's death. Indonesian military spokesmen could not be reached for comment.
East Timor was devastated by Indonesian troops and their militia proxies after it voted for independence from Indonesia in a UN-sponsored referendum in 1999. It is now under the administration of the world body, which has about 8,000 peacekeepers there.
The latest in a series of border clashes comes as East Timor prepares for elections on Aug 30 to choose a constituent assembly. There are fears that violence could disrupt the polls.
Security Boosted Along East Timor Border
Monday 30 July 6:05 PM
UN peacekeepers in East Timor said that they were boosting security along the border with Indonesia after an Indonesian soldier was shot dead in a gunbattle with New Zealand troops.
Peacekeeping spokesman Captain Isabelito Sanchez said extra troops would be deployed along the border with Indonesian-held West Timor to prevent anti-independence militiamen from entering the territory and causing unrest ahead of elections on August 30.
"We are increasing patrol operations to ensure no infiltrators can get through from the west, which could effect the peaceful outcome of the elections," he said. Saturday's border clash occurred less than a week after nationalist politician Megawati Sukarnoputri - who has expressed opposition to East Timor's independence in the past - became Indonesia's president. Megawati replaced Abdurrahman Wahid who promoted reconciliation between Indonesia and its former province.
A notorious East Timorese militia commander, Eurico Guterres - who is wanted by the United Nations for war crimes - is an official of Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle in Jakarta. Earlier this month, independence leader Xanana Gusmao appealed for calm ahead of the elections, warning that people were preparing to flee their homes in case of violence. He said the tiny nascent nation must not descend into bloodshed like it did in 1999, when Indonesian soldiers and their militia proxies killed hundreds of people after the territory voted overwhelmingly to break away from Indonesia in a UN referendum.
Since being forced out of the territory in October, 1999, by UN peacekeepers, pro-Jakarta militiamen have mounted a series of cross-border raids into East Timor. The Indonesian soldier, a 21-year-old sergeant, was shot to death on Saturday in a clash with about 30 New Zealand troops. Sanchez said the soldier, who was out of uniform, fired at least two shots at the peacekeepers from the Indonesian side of the unmarked border before they returned fire. Indonesian military commanders have said the sergeant was shot four times. The clash occurred in scrubland about four kilometres southwest of the town of Tilomar, near East Timor's southern coast.
Aussie Troops Patrol East Timor Polling Booths
Tue, 28 Aug 2001 16:23 AEST
A spokesman for the Australian Defence Force in East Timor says Australian troops will operate on a high state of alert, even after the country's first democratic elections on Thursday.
United Nations peace-keepers, including about 1,200 Australians are patrolling close to the border with Indonesian West Timor, to guard closely against any pro-Jakarta militia attacks.
Australian Defence Force spokesman Captain Noel Gilby says the patrols are mainly to make sure the militia groups do not disrupt the election process. "The patrols are more presence patrols," Captain Gilby said. "The idea is we're not so much looking for anything but what we're doing is trying to reassure the people of East Timor that they can go to the polling booths in an environment that is safe and free of fear of reprisals or that sort of act," he said.
Ansett Plane to Bring Troops Home from East Timor
Tuesday 9 October 2110
An Ansett plane will be used to redeploy troops to East Timor, Transport Minister John Anderson said
. The plane, which will go into operation on Wednesday, will make about 13 return trips, replacing the 4th battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (4RAR) with Townsville-based 2RAR.
4RAR Commandos Rush From East Timor To War Training
Sunday Oct 21 2001
A Sydney-based Army battalion coming home after six months in East Timor will go straight into training to prepare for Afghanistan.
After its long tour of duty, the 4th Commando Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, based at Holsworthy, may get only a few days off before going straight into intensive anti-terrorist training.
One thousand soldiers were in the 4RAR battalion group in East Timor, but the battle-ready commandos number about 300.
They have started coming back on a rented Ansett plane, and most should be back by the end of this week.
The soldiers' home leave will be very short, possibly just a few days, as the special commando battalion is readied for a far more dangerous mission than its role in East Timor.
It is not clear if the entire battalion is being considered for deployment or just the 300 commandos and their support units.
Diggers To Welcome Ella
Dec 6th 01
VIOLET Town's favourite rock band Killing Heidi is about to set off on its own tour of duty – entertaining 1500 Australian troops stationed in East Timor. The Christmas concert tour will be 18-year-old singer Ella Hooper's first concert since recent surgery to remove a cyst from her vocal cords. The tour begins on December 11 and includes seven performances at remote locations such as Batugade and Aidabeleten. The main concert will be at Dili Stadium on December 16. Many soldiers specifically requested Killing Heidi, one of the hottest bands in Australia. Other musicians performing for free on the tour include Paul Dempsey from Something for Kate, popular DJ Groove Terminator, Triple JJJ's latest "Unearthed" winner Missy Higgins, and the Australian Army Band Sydney.
New Defence Minister To Visit East Timor
Fri 14 Dec 2001
Defence Minister Robert Hill will make his first official overseas trip in his new role next week with a visit to Australian troops in East Timor. Senator Hill will travel to East Timor on December 20, returning a day later.
Australia has some 1,500 personnel serving on East Timor with soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR) providing security in the western border region.
"I extend my very warmest wishes to the troops and their families, and I ask all Australians to remember the contribution to peace and security being made in world hotspots by Australian members of the Defence Force," Senator Hill said in a statement. "Our servicemen and women are deployed on a number of operations this year, including East Timor, Bougainville, and our commitment to the coalition against terrorism.
"They and their families will feel the separation keenly." For many defence personnel this would be their second Christmas away from their loved ones in the past three years. He said all Australians could feel proud of the job being performed by the Australian Defence Forces (ADF). "Australian personnel are doing an important and sometimes dangerous job in East Timor," he said. "They and their families deserve as much support as possible during the Christmas period."
Senator Hill said servicemen and women deployed overseas and their families would benefit from free or reduced rate mail services to and from Australia.
Letters and packages weighing up to one kilogram can be sent free to and from service personnel involved in the coalition against terrorism.
Email messages can also be sent to personnel deployed in the coalition at firstname.lastname@example.org and a free-call fax number for messages is 1800 634 938.
Messages should be no more than one page and should be of a general, not personal, nature.
Mail to troops in East Timor and Bougainville can be sent at local postage rates to the International Mail Exchanges in Sydney and Perth, from where it will be transported to its overseas destination for free.
Concert For Diggers in East Timor
Sunday December 16 2001
Hundreds of Australian servicemen and women in East Timor have been treated to the Defence Force's Christmas Concert tour, Tour De Force 3. The concert featured performances by Killing Heidi, Paul Dempsey from Something For Kate, Groove Terminator and Missy Higgins. Backing the performers was the Army's award-winning Sydney Band. The travelling concert yesterday played the centres of Balibo, Batugade and Dili, delighting not only the Defence Force personnel but many local East Timorese. The concert followed similar events in each of the last two years.
East Timor Troop Cutback
Dec 21st 2001
DILI: Australia is set to withdraw several hundred troops from East Timor, but is likely to keep a substantial presence even after independence, Defence Minister Robert Hill has said.
After talks with the chief minister of the East Timorese Interim Government Mari Alkatiri, Senator Hill said Australia was committed to continuing to help East Timor, even after independence on May 20. He said he had discussed the future security needs of the state and plans by the United Nations to reduce the number of military personnel on the island. "If the drawdown is from 8000 to 5000 we would draw down proportionately, which would be a couple of hundred," he said.
Australia has 1600 military personnel on East Timor with the largest single group the Second Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR) providing security duties along the western border with Indonesian West Timor.
Senator Hill said it had not been decided what troops would be withdrawn and the UN had requested Australia send home several hundred infantry soldiers rather than support personnel.
Senator Hill said the withdrawal would occur gradually over the next few months. "I had some discussions this morning about what might be the mandate post-May, which very much depends on the wishes of what will be an independent East Timor," he said.
"What I am told is that the Government is likely to ask for ongoing support from peacekeepers and I expect Australia to be part of that."
Australian Troops' Pay Slashed
AUSTRALIA'S front-line troops in East Timor will have their net pay slashed in half and many will miss out on medals after Independence Day next month. Under an in-principle agreement, troops from the Sydney-based Third Battalion (3RAR) will lose 54 per cent of their take-home pay from May 20, when the United Nations hands over control of East Timor to the East Timorese. At the hand-over, Australia's involvement is set to be downgraded from "peace enforcing" in war-like conditions to ordinary peace keeping. For the front-line "grunts" in 3RAR – who began leaving for their second rotation on Friday – that means many will not serve long enough in war-like conditions to get the prized Infantry Combat Badge, Australian Active Service Medal or the United Nations medal.
Equally as important for the troops, the downgrading of the mission status means they will no longer get a tax-free salary or a $125-a-day hazard allowance.
The soldier's union, the Armed Forces Federation, said it expected the new rate would end up being about $80 a day, taxed, after the Federal Government made its final decision. Even if it is $80, one trooper said this was still a big pay cut. He said whole squads were talking about ways to get out of the military, and morale had plummeted.
Sunday 19th May 2002
Australian Peacekeepers. This Couldn't Have Happened Without You
Congratulations and Well Done
Thousands Gather in Dili for East Timor Celebrations
In East Timor, tens of thousands of people are arriving in the capital Dili preparing to celebrate the birth of a new nation. United Nations (UN) secretary-general Kofi Annan is to declare East Timor a new sovereign state from midnight tonight. The UN flag will be lowered, East Timor's yellow, black and red flag will be raised and 25,000 fire crackers will be set off to celebrate. Former guerilla fighter Xanana Gusmao will be sworn in as president. Prime Minister John Howard, former US president Bill Clinton and Indonesia's President Megawati Sukarnoputri are among the invited guests. It is estimated 200,000 East Timorese will attend an open air celebration on the outskirts of Dili. Event organiser Ignatius Jones says the scale of the celebrations will even exceed that of the Sydney Olympics. "We're expecting an audience twice the size of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games," Mr Jones said.
20TH MAY 2002
As the sun rose over independent East Timor for the first time, truckloads of former guerilla fighters who now make up the embryonic military, cruised the waterfront boulevard singing the national song, Patria Patria (Nation, Nation).
East Timor was declared independent at 25 minutes past midnight in a spectacular carnival of fireworks, song and dance at a ceremony attended by close to 100,000 East Timorese.
The transfer of power was made shortly after midnight local time by the United Nations' Secretary-General, Kofi Anna.
"As Secretary-General of the United Nations I have the honour to transfer executive authority from the United Nations transitional administration to the institutions of the Democratic Republic of East Timor," Mr Annan said.
New President Xanana Gusmao thanked the international community, including Australia, for backing East Timor's struggle for independence. He held back tears as he watched the flag of his former guerilla fighters raised as the new flag of East Timor.
5th/Seventh RAR Leaves For East Timor
22nd Sept 2002
Senator Hill announced $310 million in new spending on the army, including upgrading of vehicles and battlefield communications, while farewelling the 5th/7th Royal Australia Regiment (RAR) Battalion Group for a six-month tour of East Timor.
The 900-member East Timor peacekeeping force, which includes veterans of the original 1999 United Nations tour, will compromise a company of reservists and 180 Fijian troops. It is the first time since World War II that a combat armed unit of reservists has been deployed in an overseas operation. Senator Hill said the Fijian company was the first step in the internationalisation of the Australian peacekeeping force in East Timor.
Despite the new threat of terrorism that emerged against the Australian Embassy in Dili last week, and growing political divisions in East Timor, Senator Hill said Australian troops were still expected to be withdrawn in 18 months.
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