Shirley Shackleton has been awarded one of Timor-Leste’s highest honours, the Order of Timor-Leste Medal, in recognition of her outstanding contribution to peace and humanity in the country. The Honourable Tom Uren AC, was also awarded the Order of Timor-Leste Medal, which was accepted on his behalf by his son, Mick.
The Ordem de Timor-Leste Medalha was presented by the President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, the former resistance leader Jose Maria Vasconcellos (popularly known by his nom de guerre Taur Matan Ruak) at a ceremony in Canberra.
The medal citation reads:
Ordem de Timor-Leste Medalha
E atribuída à Senhora
Pelo seu contributo em benefício do Pais, dos Timorenses e da Humanidade
Taur Mastan Ruak
Presidente da República
Dili, 01 de Julho de 1013
In her acceptance speech, Shirley spoke of her enduring dedication to the people of Timor-Leste:
“Good evening First Lady of East Timor and Mr. President Jose Maria Vasconcelos, ladies and gentlemen.
I am not going to indulge in false modesty because I deserve this wonderful recognition of my dedication to Timor Leste. Actually Mr. President we do have a kind of symbiosis: your resistance code name Taur Matan Ruak means Two Sharp Eyes and the young daughter of a friend used to call me LITTLE SHIRLEY SHARP EYES. I accept this medal with deep humility in solidarity with the women of Timor-Leste.
Never once when my son left for school did I wonder if I would not ever see him again, nor did I ever fear what might happened to me if I left my home to go to work or to the market. Every single day for 24 years every Timorese female was forced to make dangerous choices in hope of not being set upon by the occupying forces.
In 1989, I travelled to East Timor and the first shock of many was when a Japanese reporter observed that two generations of men were missing. They were not in the mountains fighting, they were dead and their women were alone. Without Falintil they would still be alone and at risk.
Thank you Mr. President.”
Shirley is the acclaimed author of the Walkley Award winning “The Circle of Silence”. The book is available for purchase at good book shops.