Time to bring Balibo remains home: widow
More than 30 years after five Australian-based newsmen were killed in East Timor, Shirley Shackleton, the widow of the late Channel Seven reporter Greg Shackleton, says it is time for her husband's remains to be brought home.
A coronial inquest found that in 1975 Indonesian forces shot and stabbed the Balibo Five in the small town near the West Timor border.
A few weeks later another Australian journalist, Roger East, was also executed as Indonesian troops parachuted into Dili.
Tonight a film about those events will premiere at an international film festival in Melbourne.
The screening seems to be prompting some government action to repatriate the journalists' ashes.
The families of the Balibo Five will be there too to see the film.
For Ms Shackleton it is not a celebration.
"I'll cry a lot, but I've seen the film twice - but I don't mind if I cry," she said.
The film is based on a book by author Jill Jolliff, who was working as a journalist in East Timor when the Balibo Five died.
"Producing this film now shows that you should never give up. There is always the possibility that you will bring war criminals to account or human rights violated anywhere," she said.
"That is very important to continue."
In 2007 a coronial inquest found the journalists had been deliberately killed to stop them covering the Indonesian invasion.
The coroner found the journalists' remains were burnt together and mixed before being buried in Indonesia and recommended they be repatriated if the families agreed.
At the time, Kevin Rudd as the leader of the opposition said he would move to repatriate the remains.
Jolliff says there has been little action.
"There has been silence from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) on attempting to determine the will of the families in this," she said.
"Only now, just on eve of the film coming out, they have contacted the families saying 'we would like to discuss this'."
Ms Shackleton says in the past two weeks the families have received a letter from DFAT, outlining the repatriation process and saying nothing can be done unless all the families come to an agreement.
But Ms Shackleton says the relatives need more information about what is in the grave in Indonesia.
"They're saying that the families have to make a decision and let them know that we all want repatriation," she said.
"We can't be expected to tell them what we want until we know what is in the grave.
"If there is a small speck of my husband left there, I don't want him left up there."
The NSW coroner also recommended prosecutions for those responsible for the deaths.
Jolliff thinks that is unlikely.
"Possibly the exhumation of the bodies is not such a hard call for the current Indonesian Government," she said.
"The extradition of at least one senior military officer certainly is and I don't see that happening easily."
DFAT says it has been maintaining contact with the families, but has not yet been told if they have reached an agreement.