Brad Dunn - Family connections and religious ignorance

Running time
2 min 16 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


I don't connect with the East Timorese like I do with the Cambodians. I was in the vehicle, I met a couple, we had an interpreter on board and I learned as much as I could, but I didn't get to know them as a people, not really, not as much as Cambodians, but they're heavily integrated. Uncle Bob from there will know cousin Tim from down in Dili.

There's big families. When we were up in Ainaro, up in the Highlands, there were some returnees coming back in and the rumour was a lot of them had been militiamen. We ended up having to set up a cordon to defend them from the locals because the locals wanted to kill them, so they say, they talk tough. Then they got them in, got the head town people in.

It was a bit of push and shove and argy-bargy, but then got them in, got the leadership of the town in to talk to them and they knew them. They were relatives of them. Then he had to go out and "Oh no, they're not militia. They're uncle Bob and cousin Tim have come back." Now that happened a couple of times. It's heavily religious too, East Timor, really, really religious and a mix. When we were in Maliana, and I remember the local market got burnt down.

When we asked the interpreter, "Why'd they burn the market?" "Oh, because they reckon Mary wasn't a virgin." One of my soldiers said, "Well, who's Mary?" Well , mate, we had to do some religious training with everybody.

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