A connection with Timor-Leste

Welcoming an official delegation
 Miguel Gonzalez
Acting NFSACEO Steve Vogt welcoming His Excellency, Dr Jose Luis Guterres, Senior Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. Photo by Darren Weinert

The NFSA is a popular destination with international visitors, including diplomats interested in exploring different aspects of our collection – which includes thousands of items produced by, shot in or about other countries.

Last week we welcomed an official delegation from the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. It consisted of Dr Jose Luis Guterres, Senior Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste; Abel Guterres, Ambassador to Australia; and a group of diplomats and members of the Timorese press.

Four films held in the NFSA’s national collection were screened for our visitors:

  • Inspecting Oil Concession in Portuguese Timor (1925) – 9 min, B/W silent. This documentary shows the people of East Timor helping an oil concession party carry supplies from a beach before Timorese chiefs and community members welcome the party at the village of Watularia. The footage emphasises distinctions between the 52 individual communities that at that time constituted East Timor’s indigenous people, and an intertitle tells us that each of them had its own dialect. The film also shows distinctions in costuming, musical instrumentation and dance, and we see such recreations as cock-fighting and adult males engaged in foot-fighting.
  • Timor: Island of Fear, Island of Hope (1976) – 20 min, colour, sound. This documentary focuses on events occurring between the country’s independence from Portugal in 1974 and Jose Ramos-Horta and Australian Labor Party MHR Ken Fry speaking to the UN Security Council in April 1976. A flashback to the final news report from Balibo by one of the Balibo Five, HSV-7 (Seven Network) reporter Greg Shackleton, leads into a closing narration about the Indonesian invasion.

Each of the films was well received, with our visitors recognising both Timorese and Australians who appeared in the second and fourth titles. There was occasional applause, and the delegation agreed that Timor: Island of Fear, Island of Hope was a particularly important film in terms of recording and communicating the history of Timor-Leste to younger audiences today.

There was general agreement about the importance of the films screened in terms of preserving Timor-Leste’s culture and history. Dr Guterres said he hopes that the films can be screened in various parts of the country at some point of the future, and noted the strong regional cultural connections of some of the material. This is especially important because Timor-Leste is made up of 13 districts with very distinct cultures and communities.

This visit follows a gift that the NFSA presented to the people of Timor-Leste in late 2012, to mark the tenth anniversary of their independence. Titled The NFSA Timor-Leste Collection Profile, it is a document which provides remarkable insight into the diversity of the NFSA’s holdings on the history and culture of that nation. The profile features catalogue entries and essays for a total of 795 NFSA-held moving image, recorded sound and documentation works that have captured the history and culture of Timor-Leste since the early 20th century.

David Boden, General Manager, Access and Outreach, presented Dr Guterres with a copy of The NFSA Timor-Leste Collection Profile.

The NFSA will continue to work with our neighbours from Timor-Leste to ensure that all of this material can be used and accessed by the people of that country.

His Excellency, Dr Jose Luis Guterres, Senior Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (third from left, front row) and His Excellency M. Abel Guterres, Ambassador of Timor-Leste to Australia (middle, back row) and other members of the Timor-Leste Delegation, with Acting NFSACEO Steve Vogt (second form left, front row), and General Manager, Access and Outreach, David Boden (fourth from left, front row) visiting the NFSA on 17 April 2013. Photo by Darren Weinert