THE six children and nine grandchildren of special forces officer Captain Arthur "Steve" Stevenson believe they owe everything to the family of a Timorese man who served in Australian forces during World War II.
Captain Stevenson's grandson Angus Dockrill says Celestino dos Anjos put himself, his family and his village at risk to protect his grandfather and evade the Japanese for five weeks in Japanese-controlled Portuguese Timor.
In a letter to The Australian, Mr Dockrill called on Veterans' Affairs Minister Warren Snowdon to grant special compensation to dos Anjos's widow, Madalena. This follows the department's recent decision to grant a pension to the widow of another Timorese serviceman.
Mrs dos Anjos, now in her late 80s, does not qualify because her husband was executed by the Indonesian military in 1983. As a result, his death is not linked to his war service.
Mr Snowdon's office has steadfastly defended the decision to deny Mrs dos Anjos the pension and refused to consider alternatives. He has also refused repeated requests by The Australian for an interview on this case.
"Had it not been for Mr Celestino dos Anjos of Timor-Leste enlisting in the Australian Army during World War II, I and my extensive family would not be here today," he said.Mr Dockrill said the decision was "shameful".
"To discover that the Department of Veterans' Affairs has rejected a war widow's pension application for Mr dos Anjos's elderly widow is shameful.
"Mrs dos Anjos's deceased husband, Celestino, served with and saved the life of my late grandfather . . . whilst serving with the Z Special Unit behind enemy lines in Timor-Leste.
"It was . . . (his) bravery and local knowledge in the jungles of Timor-Leste that allowed the three-man Z Special detachment . . . to evade the Japanese enemy troops for five weeks. In working for the Australian army, Celestino put his own extended family and village at risk. Imagine working for the Australian Army behind enemy lines knowing that the imperial Japanese forces may turn their attention to your own family or village."
Dos Anjos was one of about 50 Timorese brought back to Australia during WWII for training in special operations. He became one of the most accomplished.
Mr Snowdon has refused to become involved even though he has spoken glowingly about the contribution of the Timorese people during WWII. His father served in New Guinea with the same unit that tied up several thousand Japanese in 1942 with the help of local partisans.