Monash University Publishing | Contacts Page
Monash University Publishing: Advancing knowledge

Making Them Indonesians: Child Transfers out of East Timor


This book tells the story of thousands of East Timorese children who were transferred to Indonesia between 1975 and 1999. A lot is written about the suffering of our people during the war and conflict – the displacement, hunger, detention, torture, rape, disappearances, killings. But this story of the transfer of vulnerable children out of East Timor is almost unknown. The children were raised and educated in Indonesia, losing their East Timorese culture and sometimes even the ability to communicate with their own parents and families. Many now live and work in Indonesia and have their own families there. Those who took the children often did so with the best of intentions, but their paternalistic attitudes, including taking many children against the wishes of parents and families, meant that there was little understanding of the personal suffering and the pain that separation causes.

Since the vote for independence in 1999, a number of East Timorese parents have asked me and/or the Alola Foundation of which I am Chair, for help in tracing their missing children in Indonesia. The Alola Foundation, named after a child taken as a war trophy to Indonesia in 1999, has assisted families in their search, and in several instances we have been successful. My husband, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão, also supports efforts to reunite children taken to Indonesia with their families in East Timor.

This book describes and analyses the child transfers out of East Timor and helps us better to understand why they occurred. The stories here represent the experiences of many East Timorese children and parents, and the book helps to draw public attention to their stories.

There are still many East Timorese living in Indonesia who were taken there as young children. There are also many families and elderly parents in East Timor who long to meet their missing children. I hope that this book, besides giving us a clearer understanding of the transfers, will also help East Timorese who were taken to Indonesia as children to realise that they are not alone in their experience. I hope that they will try to search for their families, and that those who took the children to Indonesia will assist them in their search.

Her Excellency Ms. Kirsty Sword Gusmão
Goodwill Ambassador for Education, Timor-Leste
Chair National Commission, UNESCO Timor-Leste
Chair of the Alola Foundation

Cite this chapter as: Sword Gusmão, Kirsty. 2011. 'Foreword'. In Making Them Indonesians: Child Transfers out of East Timor by van Klinken, Helene. Melbourne: Monash University Publishing. Page v.

Making Them Indonesians: Child Transfers out of East Timor

   by Helene van Klinken