The East Timorese contingent was the largest to take part in a Tasmanian Anzac parade. (ABC News: Natalie Whiting)
In the early hours of the Anzac Day morning, while many Australians were attending dawn services, a group of fruit pickers from East Timor boarded a bus for Hobart.
The 45 seasonal workers joined 14 veterans from East Timor to march in Hobart’s Anzac Day parade.
Ines Almeida, who works in veterans affairs in the Prime Minister’s Department in Dili, said it was by far the biggest contingent to have marched in Tasmania.
“It is essentially to honour the friendship that Timor Leste has with Australia, specifically with the veterans, since WWII and then through [International Force East Timor], then now,” she said.
Natalino Ferreira was among the Timorese workers who travelled to Hobart to take part.
Natalino Ferreira, who is working in Tasmania for six months, says he is proud to take part in the march. (ABC News: Natalie Whiting)
He researched Anzac Day online in anticipation.
“We are excited to participate in this day,” he said.
“When we are here we also think of our independence day and a lot of people died to get independence.”
He is spending six months working at Mountford Berries in Longford, in Tasmania’s north.
“All of us really enjoy the work and we learn something, a new skill, and we hope that when we go back home we can tailor the knowledge and experience we got in Tasmania,” he said.
Robin Dornauf from Hillwood Berry Farm, where most of the Timorese people have been working, said the group was very keen to be involved in Anzac Day.
“They’re very patriotic, they’re very proud of their country and they’re proud to be able to march,” he said.
An Australian veteran stopped to shake the hand of Colonel Falur and speak to the Timorese marchers. (ABC News: Natalie Whiting)
Hillwood chartered the bus to bring the workers to Hobart.
Leading the group through the streets was Colonel Falur Rate Laek (Domingos Raul), the third in charge of the Timorese Defence Forces.
He was surrounded by veterans, who proudly wore their uniforms and marched behind by the Australian and Timorese flags.
Ms Almeida said it was very significant for the veterans to take part.
“These are the people who have fought for our independence,” she explained.
“It has a lot of meaning, one is to see how the Australian people respect the veterans and they also are able to share their experiences with the Australian veterans as well.”
Military and veterans continue close relationship
Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Gosling, who works closely with Colonel Falur, said there was still a lot of cooperation between Australia and East Timor.
Third in command of the Timorese Defence Forces, Colonel Falur, with veterans in the Hobart parade. (ABC News: Natalie Whiting)
“We’ve got a group of 25, mainly Army and a couple of Navy advisers, who are attached to the Timor Leste Defence Force, and we’re providing specialist training in peace-keeping, engineering, medical, communications,” he said.
“We’ve also got a big English program where we’re training the whole of the Timorese Defence Force to speak English.”
He said it was “brilliant” to see the Timorese march.
“They’re right in the spirit of things here, they want to try to develop a close relationship with our veterans,” he said.
Ines Almeida says those marching are able to share their experiences fighting for independence. (ABC News: Natalie Whiting)
“So we’re meeting with the RSL and Mates for Mates, Soldier On, and those sort of groups.
“They really want to find out how we look after our veterans, so I think being part of this Anzac Parade is important.”
The two countries already do some work together on a program for veterans.
Ms Almeida said they have seen great success with the Timor Awakening program, which brings Australian veterans who served in International Force East Timor in 1999 back to the country to visit.
“Some have suffered PTSD so they have gone back to East Timor to see how after 15 years we have developed and evolved and to see the smile of the East Timorese faces, especially the young children,” she said.
“[The veterans] have been so happy and it has been a healing journey for them.”