A History of Exploitation: A Common Enemy (part two)

by Meg Rodaughan, Jaadwa Jardwadjali  

Blood money, fossil fuel, oil and gas – the key motivators for Australia’s perpetration of human rights abuses against the Timorese nation.

The Australian ambassador to Jakarta, Richard Woolcott, stated “this Department might well have an interest in closing the present gap in the agreed seabed border and this could be much more readily negotiated with Indonesia … than with Portugal or independent Portuguese Timor…… I know I am recommending a pragmatic rather than a principled stand, but that is what national interest and foreign policy is all about.” In other words, putting profit before the lives of the people and authorizing the mass murder of the Timorese people.

An insanely generous boundary that saw 80% of the Greater Sunrise oil field in Australian territories, forged an agreement between the two nations in return for Australia turning a blind eye to the Invasion of Independent Timor.

On December 11, 1989, well into the brutal occupation of Timor-Leste, the Timor Gap Treaty was signed between Australia and Indonesia, again reasserting Australia’s acknowledgement of Indonesian sovereignty.

Today, an independent East Timor enjoys 90% of the government revenue from one of the key fields in the Timor Sea, Bayu-Undan. However, the dispute over other significant deposits located nearby is still raging and some deposits, namely the Laminaria-Corallina fields, have nearly been depleted without Timor receiving a cent.

Since Timor-Leste’s independence, Australia has worked very hard at undermining Timor-Leste’s rights to their own oil. They have taken advantages of Timor’s weaknesses and instability following the decades of conflict and made sure they are well timed to extort profits. Australia’s withdrawal from the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice has incapacitated any avenues for legal proceedings for Timor-Leste.

In 2012, it was revealed that Australia bugged the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste Presidential Offices so that they could spy on the Timor-Leste cabinet room during the negotiation process of the resources treaty and using what it learned to force an unequal outcome. After Timor-Leste took this case to the International Arbitration Courts of The Hague, Australia responded by raiding the offices of Timor-Leste’s barrister and seizing documents as well as the home of the key witness of the case.

Indigenous Solidarity

I have spent a lot of time in Timor and have learnt the stories that do not filter through the Australian media by talking to the old people, to the ex-resistance fighters, from the women and children that were imprisoned on an island concentration camp, been shown the places where churches once stood but were burnt to the ground full with community members and locked by the Indonesian army. I have seen the scars on peoples bodies, heard memories of those who were lost in the war, seen their tears and heard their sadness. These sorrowful stories will remain with me forever, but, when I think of Timor and the Timorese I think of strength, determination but always the undertone of every story; a story of a people’s uncompromising love and commitment to their land and their culture.

I have shared many a story about my own culture and my family history with the people I met there. Our suffering is their suffering and their suffering is ours.  Patjangal (pelican), my totem can be found living on the sacred lake Illilala to the far east of the country.

I do not identify as Australian, although it is hard not to feel a sense of shame when I go there because of the horrendous exploitation of the Timorese people and the Timorese resources committed by the Australian Government.


The Timorese have been staging massive demonstration calling for the establishment of permanent maritime borders. Currently there is only 2% of the Australian Maritime borders that have not been permanently established in accordance with international law- this is Timor’s oil reserves.

Since 1999, Australia has provided approximately US$1.7 billion in military and civilian assistance for Timor-Leste through bilateral and multilateral mechanisms. During the same sixteen years, the Australian government has received nearly $5 billion dollars in revenues from oil and gas fields, which rightfully belong to Timor-Leste. Timor-Leste has “given” more than three billion dollars to Australia, which makes Timor-Leste Australia’s largest aid donor, not the other way around.                                  

Movement Against the Occupation of the Timor Sea (MKOTT) asks the following of the Australian Government:

  1. Australia should respect the sovereignty and dignity of the nation of Timor-Leste, as it does for other nations in the world.
  2. Australia should return to the mechanisms for resolving maritime boundary disputes of the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
  3. The Government of Australia should negotiate with the Government of Timor-Leste in good faith.
  4. Australia should not continue to use the “Continental Shelf” argument which is no longer valid under international law.
  5. Australia, as a large nation, should not use its economic and political power in the region to continue to take advantage of the Timorese people’s future.

We, the Sovereign Aboriginal people of so-called Australia have the same enemy and we have an obligation to protect our brothers and sisters in Timor-Leste against this greedy colonial government.

Viva Timor-Leste!

Viva the Maubere People!

Down with Australia’s Occupation of the Timor Sea!


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