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    Veterans in East Timor

    Military Shop
    Posted by Military Shop on Nov 2, 2015 10:55:04 PM

    A contingent of four former servicemen who served in East Timor, with 3 staff members from Soldier On and 4 staff members from The Citadel Group returned to the country. After booking into the accommodation, the group was shown around Dili which has been, so far, an informative look at the country that the servicemen remember from very different times.

    Of the four former servicemen, two, one Army, the other Air Force served during the early day of the International Force East Timor (INTERFET) in 1999, one served during the civil conflict in 2006 and the other in 2008.

    The group reported for work at the Bairo Pire Clinic and was welcomed by the Clinic Manager, Fi Oakes. After a tour and brief, our construction manager, Andrew Gaye from The Citadel Group met the local contractor Norman Bruce, an expat Australian to plan the way ahead. The task was to erect a car port for the clinic’s ambulances and some shelter over some of the walkways between wards.

    Whilst this was happening, some of the group began cleaning down and painting the inside of a clinic building whilst Sarah Curby from The Citadel Group started repairs to the rendering. Fi Oakes found out John Bettley was a former Air Force chef and asked for his services to assist the clinic kitchen staff in developing good kitchen and food handling processes.

    The next day, the group arrived bright and early to begin work. The contractor’s team was on the job ready to go. The Soldier On group again broke into sub groups, some painting, some assisting with the construction, and John back to working with the catering staff.

    All had preconceived ideas about the place but were keen to see what it looked like now. The first change noticed was a large statue of Nicolau Lobato on the roundabout coming from the airport that was named in his honour. Driving down the main route into Dili, also named after him, it was a pleasure to see new construction and reconditioned buildings. The bridge over the river has been duplicated with two lanes now on each side. Gone largely are the burnt out buildings of the past, however the shanty like homes and shop fronts were very much in evidence.

    In past deployments, the absence of local industry was noticeable, with the streets lined with out of work adults and young men sitting amongst piles of rubbish on the sides of the road, children and women begging, all with looks of hopelessness on their faces. No one smiled or responded to a friendly wave.

    This time, the streets were packed with buses, trucks, motor vehicles of every size, motor bikes and of course, Microlets in their hundreds. Pedestrians, mostly well dressed and groomed, fill the footpaths. Industry can be seen everywhere from road side mechanical repairs to new car sales, street stalls selling a multitude of product to a major shopping centres, from local street-side food stalls to classy restaurants to high class hotels.

    After almost seventy years Australia's mission in East Timor finally seems complete.

    Topics: East Timor

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