12 May 2009

East Timor has a 'stolen generation'

Adam Gartrell May 12, 2009 - 3:49PM - East Timorese children were taken from their families and resettled in Indonesia under policies similar to those that created Australia's stolen generation, a Queensland researcher says.

Helene van Klinken says soldiers took many East Timorese children, sometimes by force, during Indonesia's occupation of the tiny country from 1975 to 1999.

The experiences of those children were often comparable to those of Australia's Aborigines, she says.

"The Indonesians thought they were doing good and acting out of noble intentions," said van Klinken, who recently finished her PhD on the topic through the University of Queensland.

"The Indonesians who took away children wanted to help develop the province by educating the children, but they often did so with no regard for how parents and children might suffer because of their separation."

Unable to access government records, Ms van Klinken's research relied on oral histories.

She interviewed parents, children, officials and leaders in East Timor and Indonesia.

Stories were diverse, she said.

"Some children were treated no differently from the soldiers' own children, while others had to work in slave-like conditions," she said.

While some of the children were grateful for a chance at an Indonesian education, others were bitter that they had been separated from their families, she said.

Today, East Timor's independence and Indonesia's democratisation have made it easier for families to reunite.

"However, it still requires resources which most do not have," van Klinken said.

Source: http://news.brisbanetimes.com.au/breaking-news-world/east-timor-has-a-stolen-generation-20090512-b1hg.html

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