A combined Union and Solidarity Choir from NSW, ACT and Victoria on 4 September concluded a nine-day singing visit to Timor-Leste.

Most of the choir members have been activists in the solidarity movement with Timor-Leste, some of them going back to before the Indonesian invasion and occupation in late 1975.

Since the restoration of the country’s independence with the withdrawal of Indonesian troops in 1999, solidarity has continued to be needed because of the Australian government’s refusal to agree to a sea border with Timor-Leste that conforms with international law. This refusal is a transparent attempt to gain control of oil fields that should belong to Timor-Leste.

A maritime border treaty between the two countries was finally signed in March, but has not yet been ratified by either country’s parliament.

Many Timorese are aware of, and scandalised by, the Australian government’s prosecution of Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery over their role in the exposure of Australia’s illegal bugging of the Timor-Leste government during border negotiations. A coalition called MKOTT, the initials for the Tetum words meaning Movement Against the Occupation of the Timor Sea, has demonstrated in solidarity with the two outside the Australian embassy.

During the visit, the choir sang at schools, a hospital, a commemoration of the 1999 independence referendum, in workshops with Timorese choristers and at Chega!, the centre mandated to ensure implementation of the findings of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, which documented the violations of human rights during the Indonesian occupation.

The combined choir was composed of members from the Newcastle People’s Chorus, Solidarity Choir (Sydney), Sydney Trade Union Choir, Blue Mountains Trade Union Choir, Illawarra Union Singers, Canberra Union Voices and Victorian Trade Union Choir.