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"Mother they made us spill blood" is the haunting line in a chant amplified to the thousands assembled at the first anniversary of the Suai Church Massacre in East Timor on September 6, 2000.After a war is over and the blood has stopped flowing, the suffering and violence as a direct result of those acts of war continues. The terrible irony is, that between the people involved in those acts of war, there are crimson threads of kinship forming which will connect them across national borders and generations into the future.This site seeks to use the language of art to explore stories which emerge through friendship between people in East Timor and Australia.
The site initiative emerged in response to the declaration of a friendship city initiative in 1999, between Suai and Pt Phillip. We hope it will grow in collaborative spirit.
Suai is a coastal town in the region called Cova Lima, in the south west near the western border with West Timor.Suai, East Timor, [Timor Loro Sa'e), was the site of a massacre at Our Lady of Fatima Church, on September 6, 1999. Three Priests and over 50 people were killed there in a rampage of violence. This was one act of hundreds, in which thousands of people were killed by Indonesian military and militia who opposed the successful vote for independence from Indonesia, in a UN backed referendum on August 30,1999. Trails of tears were being shed on both sides of the Timor Gap, because many relationships were already well formed which mocked national borders, politics of oil and geographical boundaries.

St Kilda
In response to the crisis in East Timor my local government: the ' Council of Pt Phillip', in Melbourne, Australia, formed a group called the Friends of Suai who have committed themselves to helping to rebuild Suai over a ten year period (2000 to 2010).St Kilda is a fashionable suburb of Pt Phillip, in the state of Victoria, in the South East of Australia.
Settled by the British in 1839 the Pt Phillip area's earliest inhabitants were the Yaluki-millam people, one of five clans of the Bunurong people. Known as the coastal tribe they were members of the Kulin nation. A melancholic reminder of the rich indigenous culture of this land can be seen in the form of the Corroboree Tree, which survived in St Kilda after locals, protested against it being sacrificed for a freeway. You can see it on the front page if you look carefully amongst the urban jungle. St Kilda is a culturally diverse suburb where many refugees from variousnations have settled. In particular people who sought refuge from theSecond World War and Nazi Germany.
My family is a mixture of Welsh,Cornish, English, Polish and Scottish blood and our ancestors settled hereas part of the British colonialist project, in the mid nineteenth century when Portugal was occupying East Timor.
culture of the friendship
Veronica Pereira a senior Timorese woman of Suai, with homes in Darwinand Suai, tells us of the legend of Ikinbaki, passed down by her ancestors when Timorese princes came to Australia to gamble and ended up staying and marrying Aboriginal women. Perhaps this was the beginning of the neighbourhood relationship.
Patsy Thatcher an anthropologist with an interest in East Timor since the fifties, and a resident of St Kilda, tells me six people from Australia wentto East Timor and began searching for oil in 1896. There were Australiansin East Timor from that time. Her research involved reading the journalsof the Australian diggers who fought in East Timor in the Second World War. These revealed that in 1966 Bishop Goulet of Dili claimed 40,000 Timorese died in the Second World War, when the Australian government decided to invade East Timor after Pearl Harbour. This loss of life in East Timor as a result of our war strategies, is barely mentioned in Australian history booksor represented in our war memorial monuments.
Graham Pitts another Pt Phillip resident, has ensured this story of friendship and trust, will not be forgotten through his documenting of Harry Levy's story, a local Melbourne identity, in the form of the play Tour of Duty. which has been performed in Timor and Melbourne. Australian men whose liveswere saved by the East Timorese remember them in personal, if ephemeral ways in terms of history: by naming their properties or children after them. The stories of the aftermath of war for the wives of these men are not mentioned anywhere.
The well known Australian Quarter horse has Timor pony as part of its breeding. They were brought to Australia by barge from East Timor to far North Queensland.for this purpose before 1975.
The Man from Snowy River a poem by Banjo Paterson,(b.1864), and first published in 1961, created a classic tale of moral and physical courage toevoke his concept of the Australian spirit, around the journey of horse that is one part Timor pony, which entered the realms of myth in Australiain the fifties and sixties.
"And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast;He was something like a racehorse undersized,With a touch of Timor pony - three parts thoroughbred at least -And such as are by mountain horsemen prized.He was hard and tough and wiry - just the sort that won't say die-There was courage in his quick impatient tread…."
(this excerpt taken from a classic edition 1973 and reprinted
in 1975 and 1976 by Angus & Robertson.)
Hundreds of Australians of varying ethnicity worked with East Timorese people in Australia and East Timor, and withlike minded people in many other countries, towards the independence of East Timor, because their human rights andeconomic security was being aggressively compromised bythe Indonesian occupiers.
These friendships increased in number dramatically inDecember 1975, (the date of the Indonesian Invasion) and again in 1991, following the murder of hundreds of students at the Santa Cruz Massacre. December 1975 was thedate David Scott a St Kilda resident founded the Australia EastTimor Assoication, which became an importanthub for people wanting to support the struggle.
This influx of people into the struggle was made possibleby a few journalists such as Portuguese filmmaker MaxStahl who is a national hero in East Timor. Max witnessedthe massacre and before being arrested by the Indonesianmilitary secreted his video tapes in a gravestone where it wascollected by friends and smuggled out of the country fordistribution to the international media. this story more thanany other is credited with turning the tide of the internationalcommunity because it confirmed all of the rumours whichhad been coming from the country for years.
The story behind the success of the struggle is long andcomplex, it is told in many books, and is a story which belongsto the East Timorese.
The journey of the friendship between East Timor and Australiacontinues and this site seeks to document some of it, to keepthe story alive, and to provide an opportunity for a grass rootspoint of distribution for our stories. This intro has been writtenwholly by me, after two years of work, with the blessing of East Timorese and Australian friends with whom I have consulted,and it is one of the early steps towards a cross cultural collaborative work.
How the friendships evolve in the light of the latest eventsof history we have still to tell. How we recover from the traumaon both sides of the Gap we still have to tell.
What form will the 'help' from Australia take, how will it be received, and what impact might it have upon the East Timoreseculture and people? Will it be yet another form of colonialism? The intent is that we follow these stories for ten years beginningin 2000.
We will be jumping in and 'getting our hands dirty' in the AID game tooWe are already experiencing just how difficult it can be transferring skills and resources across economic, cultural and power differences.
If you want to get involved send us an email. The Crimson Threads
website is constantly growing and we (always) need help in the real world.

Culture of Trauma
"Suai is filled with blood, where it spills on every place people's dignity is being stepped around like dust people's humility is like the animals….the Indonesian military and the militia make the people of East Timor like the mosquitoes and flies, they are already dead, but still there is no respect" these lines are a literal translation from 'The Tragedi do Suai', a re-enactment of the massacre performed at the first anniversary and partially seen in thevideo the circle of stones.
Eighteen months after the post ballot violence in 1999, I made a video: 'the circle of stones', expressing the sense of loss and injustice I observed at the first anniversary of the massacre in Suai in September 2000. I was there because I had gone to Suai to make friends, to learn about the culture and to facilitate the setting up of a multimedia arts node. It was the first step towards this project, to open a dialogue with people in the community of Suai. On my way I met Veronica Pereira and her story of the healing powerof culture made a strong impression upon me.
When I returned home to St Kilda, in November 2000 I decided thatthe first work should be around the issue of grief, loss and recovery.These themes are strongly represented then in this October 2002 versionof the site and were the subject of the first video.
By the time the video was made the second anniversary was comingaround so I helped organize an event at the St Kilda Town Hallwhich we also titled 'the circle of stones' and invited people in thePt Phillip community and old friends of East Timor to join in forminga circle of stones as an act of healing, and to show people in Suaiwe are sharing their burden, which is a collective loss, and whichrequires justice to find closure.
Trauma will continue to be an issue in East Timor and among manyAustralians who have been on their journey with them. Traumatised people first and foremost require security from fear,shelter, food and water. The UN and Aid agencies are doing their bestto provide this in East Timor. The friendship city programs are focusing on practical issues of education, health, economics, infrastructure and so on. The security forces and East Timor's new army and police are focusing on security. The next thing which traumatized people need is recognition, justiceand reconciliation. It is hoped that this site will contribute in a small way towards personalizing the atrocities of the past, by bearing witness and making visible to an international audience, the complexity of the struggle still being undertaken on both sides of the friendship. As Veronica woveinto one of her tais, the traditional cloth of East Timor..'escrata continua''the struggle continues'.

How do we help?
The Tragedi do Suai' is a call for justice. Every family in East Timor has lost one or more family members in the struggle for independence, it is a newnation of deeply traumatized people. Australia owes East Timor a debt. Supporting the call for justice helps and this can be done simply by helpingto keep the memory of the atrocities alive as this site does.It is a deeply complicated task to help even one person in the same culture. It is difficult for traumatized people to recover their trust inothers. You can help by getting involved with a local government initiative or bringing to bear the resources of your own friends and family or club in fundraising. Money is the simple side of the equation, turning it into help requires dedicated expertise.
Donations can be sent to the Friends of Suai, St Kilda Town Hall,Carlisle Street, St Kilda 3182. If you want to fund this project send yourDonation to the Friends of Suai and mark it for the 'Suai Media Arts Project.'If you want to be involved as an artist/storyteller, or form a link, email us at this site. There is a link to the Friends of Suai page on this site.
Suai Media Arts Node
The Suai Media Arts Project aims to transfer skills and resources inMultimedia production to Suai for the development of a Suai Media Arts Node. The first initiative was to base my video on the re-enactment of the Suai Massacre and combine it in the circle of stones video.
Thank you to the Council of Pt Phillip Thank you to local business sponsors, especially Mike Reed Productions for help with the circle of stones videoThanks to Katie and John: interactive design students of the Victorian University of Technology and their lecturers especially Sue McCauley.Thankyou to Lee and the Asia Pacific Support Collective and Timor Aid Thankyou to my family for the rest.