Tim Holt has been a passionate advocate for the people of Timor Leste (East Timor) since before I knew him.
Tim and I share a love and skill for radio and worked together at ABC South East for nine years until Tim’s ‘retirement’ at Christmas in 2015.
Between 8:30 and 11:00am five days a week, Tim served up a dynamic mix of local news, comment, and culture, sprinkled with national and international stories and conversation.
Tim’s worldview is bigger than most and he is always keen to broaden the horizons of those he talks to. Never condescending or smart-arsey, Tim has a genuine ability as a teacher and communicator that springs from his authentic interest in the world and its people.
This 65 year-old radio man has just touched down in Timor Leste, a struggling country on Australia’s northern doorstep that he has dedicated many hours of radio to over the years.
Leaving behind his beautiful young black labrador ‘Miles’ and traveling with musical mate Dave Crowden, this is perhaps Tim’s big retirement adventure.
A worker all his life, Tim is a family man and had to carefully plan for his retirement before letting go of full-time work. Every dollar counts and is counted.
I think it says something about Tim that he isn’t spending his hard earned money on a Pacific cruise and cocktails but on a trip to Timor Leste – one of the poorest nations in the world.
Dave’s connection with this country is just a long if not longer through the work of the Bega Valley Advocates for Timor Leste, both men have helped build a relationship between the Bega Valley and Natabora that will be strengthened again by their travels.
Tim is writing regular ‘Postcards from Timor Leste’ for About Regional and the first one arrived this morning.
Postcard 1 from Timor Leste, by Tim Holt
Dave and I are at Darwin Airport. The flight to Dili leaves at 5.45am with little or no chance of a snooze before then.
Miles had it figured I was heading off a couple of weeks back.
Packing the blue travel bag was all the cue he needed. The bag was only half packed and Miles would extract a sock or two, a pair of undies or a handkerchief and lie on the bed with his little stash looking at me with those big brown eyes.
Come Saturday with the blue bag zipped and tagged, he just lay on the bed watching every move.
When Dave pulls in that afternoon that blue travel bag is on the front porch, Miles forlorn behind the wire screen door as we head off for the drive up to Canberra Airport.
From Cooma, there’s a stream of snow traffic in both directions.
Even before Cooma, there are several “no eye deers” on the road with us. One overtakes going up the Brown, over the double lines and no vision.
What can you say?!
The Qantas flight from Canberra is uneventful, though the X-ray baggage checker is somewhat alarmed when the recorders look to him like implements of destruction!
Reassured that they are musical instruments he waves us through.
Sydney at 6.35pm
The flight to Darwin doesn’t depart till 8.30. Plenty of time you say. That is until you discover the Qantas self-check in screen hasn’t got us listed on any flight.
Customer service resolves the dilemma, “your flight to Darwin is with Jetstar, not Qantas, just take the pedestrian bridges, thru the car park and into the domestic terminal. Sorted 20 minutes before boarding.
Sorted 20 minutes before boarding.
So that’s the Qantas slight of hand, when you think you’ve booked Qantas, well no you haven’t.
So we’re in the air to Darwin. In-flight refreshments ie: food? Ah yes, here’s the menu, hmmm..well not exactly anything you could really describe as food and it’s not complimentary.
Dave settles for Pringles and a Vodka. Me – cheese and olives with a bottle, that is a one glass bottle of Shiraz. We won’t talk about the price.
We’re at Darwin International Airport, now 3.28am and a bit over 2 hours till the flight to Dili.
We’ll be in Dili around 6.30am, weary and red-eyed and looking for breakfast.
This is my first time to Timor Leste, but the fourth for Dave. He started the Instruments for Timor project 6 years ago, with around 150 donated and purchased musical instruments for the young people of Natabora.
In 2011 and 2012 Dave organised several talent quests. 2012 also saw a choir and the “Paul Kelly” of Timor Leste, Ego Lemos come to Australia. In that year Ego performed at Candelo.
As I travel I am reminded of an interview I did in late 1990 with the delightful Australian blues, roots, rock outfit, “Wild Pumpkins at a Midnight”.
Several of their songs still echo with me to this day.
One track titled “East Timor” is an instrumental with just helicopters, gunfire and mortar.
“Hooray, Hooray” is as poignant now as it was in 1990… “there’s a war going on over here…” they sing.
The physical war may be over but the “war” to overcome poverty and to rebuild Timor Leste is an ongoing battle.
It is one which the Australian Government is complicit for its failure to negotiate a fair maritime boundary.
Hopefully, that will be resolved later this year and Timor Leste will receive the wealth it deserves from the rich gas and oil fields that Australia has unfairly exploited.
I really don’t know what to expect when we land in Dili in a few hours’ time. I’m excited, nervous, and somewhat emotional as I write this.
Dave and I are planning a day trip to Balibo, catching up with Ego Lemos with plans for a trip to the Bega Valley and to encourage the formation of a Timorese choir to visit in 2020.
Exciting plans but it’s early days yet and will require much support and fundraising.
Most of the time we’ll spend around Natobora, visiting schools, Dave with his traveling guitar and me with a recorder to share some songs with kids.
Words by Tim Holt, more postcards from Tim as time and the internet allow.