Gillard's gifts honour East Timor's milestone
Andrea Hayward
February 19, 2012

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard presents East Timorese Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao with a photographic portrait from the Australian National Archives at the Lodge Photo: Getty Images

EAST TIMOR'S Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao has accepted two rare films from the Australian government, offering a rare insight into his nation's history.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard handed over two films and a framed photo of a village boy to Mr Gusmao in Canberra yesterday, to mark the nation's first decade of independence.

A film shot by oil and gas explorers in the 1920s offers a glimpse back in time, with footage of villagers in Portuguese Timor, as it was known at the time.

''We believe we have found in Australian archives probably what are the first film images ever made of people in your nation,'' Ms Gillard told Mr Gusmao.

It is believed to be the oldest existing footage taken in East Timor. Another film, shot by Australian war cinematographer Damien Parer, depicts the tremendous support provided by East Timorese locals to Australian servicemen who were fighting the Japanese during World War II.

The material was kept by the National Film and Sound Archives.
Further funding has been given to the agency to help it identify archival material of cultural and historical importance to the tiny nation.

Ms Gillard said the anniversary was an important milestone for the country's young democracy.
The Prime Minister told her Timorese counterpart she would not be able to travel to his nation to celebrate the achievement but Governor-General Quentin Bryce would.
''The Australian people have a special affinity with East Timor stretching back many decades,'' Ms Gillard said.

Presidential and parliamentary elections, the nation's third since independence, will be held next month in East Timor.

Ms Gillard said Australia had been at the forefront of international support for East Timor's transition to independence and a dedicated partner in helping the country become a stable, peaceful and more prosperous nation.

Australian Defence Force personnel remain in East Timor on a security mission.
President Jose Ramos-Horta called last year for Australian troops to begin pulling out at the end of this year following the withdrawal of international security forces.

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