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1941 World War 2

The seeds for the extraordinary closeness of relationships between ordinary East Timorese and Australians were sown in World War 2. Click on the photographs or the highlighted links for more about these stories.

In this video series, we hear from a Timorese veteran for the first time since the end of the war in 1945.  Rufino Correia invites us to share his recollections of World War 2 as  the servant (criado) for Lt. Tom Nisbet. Tom Nisbet passed away in April, 2003. In his recollection Rufino describes some harrowing experiences, reveals some funny insights and the traumatic moment when their Australian friends had to leave them behind on the beach to the mercy of the Japanese.

David Scott’s Unpublished Chapters‘All they Got Was Misery’ and ‘Japan – the Reluctant Invaders’ cover some of the history from the point of view of Australia and Japan. These stories are also available in Tetun: Timor-oan-Hetan-Terus and Japaun Relatante Invasores.


Port Phillip artist, Liz Milsom’s father George Milsom served in East Timor in the 2/40th Company and later 2/2nd Independent Company and she joined the Friends of Suai in  2007. During a visit by Suai Loro artist Natalino dos Reis to St Kilda Liz took the opportunity to entertain Natalino and Kiki (an artist from Los Palos) and discuss their shared history while showing them her father’s work and memorabilia. The artists joined in the Human Sign for climate change and visited William Ricketts Sanctuary. They were in Melbourne for the Arte Moris Free Art School Exhibition in Bundoora House.


Harry Levi Veterans of World War 2 who served in East Timor were among the most loyal and active supporters of the East Timorese after 1975. Harry Levi a former resident of Port Phillip was one of these men who were active throughout their lives. This is a photograph of Harry when he was camped outside the Indonesian Embassy protesting.

Harry wrote hundreds of letters to the editors of many newspapers protesting at Australia’s continued betrayal of the Timorese from 1975 to 1999. Check out the video interview with Harry here and the interview with Bishop Belo about the role his father and grandfather played in supporting Australian soldiers in WW2, and what happened to them as a result.


Archie Campbell was not a resident of Port Phillip, but he wrote a memoir titled ‘The Double Reds of Timor’ (1995). There are some poems and extracts from his memoir on Suai Media Space because it autobiographically expresses his feelings and those of  some of his friends while in East Timor and afterwards, giving us a small insight into how some of the Australian soldiers thought about their service there, how they felt about the Timorese who helped them and as well as the values and colloquial language of the time. Archie documented in his memoir  his apprehension about landing in the sovereign State of Portuguese East Timor without the permission of the Portuguese.