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Veterans mark ANZAC Day in Dili, Timor-Leste, in 2023 (Supplied)

Memories of hardship, sacrifice and camaraderie are at the forefront of veteran John Smith’s mind as he and 24 other ANZAC veterans make a return journey to Timor-Leste 25 years after their deployment. Source: The Catholic Leader.

Australian peacekeepers were deployed to Timor-Leste in 1999 following the referendum for East Timor to become independent from Indonesia.

“Returning to Timor-Leste after 25 years is a deeply emotional experience for many of us,” Mr Smith said. 

“This journey allows us to honour those memories and to reconnect with the people and the land that we once called home.”

The group is going with the Brisbane-based wellness program Timor Awakening, founded and run by army veteran Michael Stone.

Timor Awakening is a peer support program, which has been on a mission since 2016 to prevent veteran suicide and the impacts of service in the veteran community, including families. 

More than 500 veterans have participated in 26 programs which alternate between Timor-Leste and Queensland’s Gold Coast. 

“We are honoured to facilitate this journey for our veterans,” Mr Stone said.

“For many, returning to Timor-Leste is a profound step in their journey of healing. 

“We are committed to providing veterans and families with the support and resources they need to navigate this experience.”

Mr Stone said there were benefits for veterans returning to a former conflict zone, “to experience places through a new perspective and reframe images and pain that can be trapped inside”. 

“Returning to many other conflict zones for contemporary veterans is not possible,” he said.

“Veterans from all theatres of war and peacekeeping operations have found healing visiting Timor-Leste, a nation who have embraced reconciliation and forgiveness as the practical way forward for themselves and their nation. 

“Moral Injury is an undiagnosed major condition of many veterans, which we have been addressing through a range of social impact programs in Timor-Leste since the program began.”

The veterans participating in the Timor Awakening program will engage in a range of activities during their time in Timor-Leste, including cultural exchanges, community service projects, and opportunities for reflection and remembrance. 


ANZAC veterans making emotional return to Timor-Leste for 25th anniversary (By Joe Higgins, The Catholic Leader)