“A Luta Continua, Viva Timor Leste!” – Melbourne Activists Celebrate Solidarity with Timor Leste
The Annual Melbourne Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA Dinner attracted more than two hundred guests to mark the twenty year anniversary of their 1999 referendum and celebrate the long-standing solidarity between Australian unionists and the people of Timor Leste.
A Welcome to Country was offered by Wurundjeri Elder Uncle Colin Hunter and our MC for the night was Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA Chairperson Angelo Gavrielatos. Both talked about the importance of solidarity in the struggle for justice at a local and international level.
Angelo went on to describe the important role Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA played in engaging unions and union leaders in Timor Leste’s struggle for independence in 1999, leading multiple study tours of Australian unionists coordinated by Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA organisers to meet with community and resistance leaders.
“Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA was instrumental in building the bridge between the Australian people and the East Timorese people”
– Angelo Gavrielatos
“There is no climate justice if you leave communities behind”
– Jagveer Singh
Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA’s Organiser for Timor Leste, Samantha Bond, acknowledged the Timorese guests present on the night including five Timorese seasonal workers, (and members of the new United Workers’ Union) who are currently working on farms on Melbourne’s outskirts and organising for fair workplace wages and conditions for all workers in the farm sector.
The first keynote speaker was ACTU Secretary Sally McManus who spoke passionately about the union movement’s historic involvement in solidarity actions with the people of Timor Leste, acknowledging a number of people in the room including IEU Victoria-Tasmania Secretary, Deb James who was involved in transporting medical supplies and goods to resistance fighters and hospitals in Timor Leste in 1999.
Sally also spoke of the many union and community led actions on the streets and in workplaces (including Tullamarine airport) designed to put pressure on the Australian and Indonesian governments to allow Timor Leste to hold a referendum for Independence. Sally also spoke about the honour of being invited to Timor Leste this year for the August 30th commemorations where the Australian union movement was awarded the Medal of Timor for its solidarity throughout this important yet brutal part of Timor’s history.
“Solidarity means standing by people even when it’s not popular”
– Sally McManus, ACTU Secretary
Our second keynote speaker was Mana Elsa (Uka) Pinto who is a co-cordinator of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA partner organisation, Kdadalak Simulut Institute (KSI) in Timor Leste. The KSI evolved from the student movement following Timor’s independence and is focused on peace building, eradication of poverty, and mobilisation of Timor Leste’s rural population through popular education and collective organising.
“Oppressed people, when they come together, can make great change”
– Elsa Pinto, Kdadalak Simulut Institute (KSI)
Mana Uka also spoke of her own journey to become an activist from the age of thirteen when her family house was burnt down by Indonesian militia following the 1999 referendum, and then a second time in 2006 when she and her siblings became internally displaced persons for two years. Acknowledging the support of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA, Uka spoke of the continuing struggle and campaigns for land reform, food sovereignty, social and economic justice in Timor.
“The struggle must continue. As we have liberated our people from colonialism, we must liberate our people from poverty, hunger, and literacy”
A fantastic live and silent auction were conducted during the evening with almost $10,000 raised and more than twenty new Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA members joining on the night. A solidarity photo with the trade unionists of the Philippines was taken, followed by a rousing rendition of Solidarity Forever.
A luta continua – viva Timor Leste!
Join the Union Aid Abroad - APHEDA Community
The work of building global solidarity depends upon the efforts and contributions of thousands of unionists, activists, and internationalists. You can join them by becoming a member of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA.