Timorese Medical Students
When East Timor gained independence from Indonesia,
East Timorese medical students faced an uncertain future. They
were away from families, now on a foreign soil and had to face
the potential hostility from Indonesians. Financial support for
their ongoing was in doubt. Those that returned to East Timor
found a country destroyed by the anger of Indonesian troops and
the militias. Some found a place to work at Bairo Pite Clinic
alongside Dr Dan. Many still wanted to finish their degrees and
with the assistance of BPC and generous others, some have been
lucky enough to find places in overseas medical schools. It is
hoped upon their return they will be the able to care for their
country alongside other East Timorese doctors.
Like hundreds of other Timorese,
Julia's medical studies in Indonesia were interrupted by
the events surrounding East Timor's independence vote in
Thanks to the generosity of an Australian
family, Julia is currently studying medicine at Queensland
University of Technology. Read more of Julia's story here.
Unable to complete her medical
studies because of the violence of 1999, Edia is now studying
medicine in Dublin supported by the College of Surgeon's.
She now faces the problem of the cold,
rain and the funny way the Irish speak!
Yudi (Iudiana soares de Deus) works at Bairo
Pite Clinic is looking forward to continuing her studies
to be a doctor.
She is hoping that through Dr Dan a scholarship may open
the way for her to complete her medical studies. Even study
in Indonesia takes a lot of money.
Yudi began her medical studies in Denpasar at Udayana University.
But in 1999 with parent concerned about her welfare and
safety she returned home to Dili.
The Indonesian government had told Yudi that it was okay
to complete her studies in Denpasar, however she had also
heard that militia from East Timor had plans to murder any
Timorese students choosing to stay in Indonesia.
Now Yudi works at Bairo Pite Clinic in the inpatient ward
with tuberculosis patients, with obstetric patients and
sometimes in the pharmacy and emergency clinic.
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From: Inside QUT, Queensland University of Technology
Newspaper (Issue 212 March - April 2001) by Margaret Lawson
At first glance, Julia Magno may seem just like
any other shy, first-year medical science student. But there is
one thing that sets her apart. Julia (as she likes to be known)
is a survivor from the East Timor conflict – and the journey
from her homeland to Queensland University of Technology (QUT)
is a remarkable story of her courage and the generosity of a Brisbane
Three years ago, Julia was one of several hundred East Timorese
students who were studying at Indonesia’s Hasanuddin University
when their country’s independence vote sparked the deadly
conflict with Indonesian forces.
"When it began, all the staff and professors
decided they did not want to teach East Timorese students again,"
she reflected quietly. "It became dangerous to be there (in
Indonesia) … I was lucky that some Indonesian friends kept
me in their home, but I couldn’t go outside by myself."
It was 18 months before Julia could safely return to East Timor,
only to find that her home was empty and her parents, three brothers
and extended family had disappeared. With no idea what had become
of her family amid the devastation, Julia waited for two anxious
months for news. "The whole time I didn’t expect anything,"
she recalled. "I just prayed and hoped, hoped that I would
meet them again one day. Then, one day, my mother phoned and said
they were staying in a safe place in West Timor and would be home
soon." Julia vividly remembers the day she spent waiting
for her family at the dock, desperate to locate them amid all
the repatriates. "I waited all day for when they would come.
My mother and brothers came on the first boat, but my father wasn’t
with them," she said. "I was very worried, wondering
where he was, and then the INTERFET boat came and suddenly he
was there. I was so happy, so relieved."
With her family back together, but with no immediate hope of continuing
her studies – the university in East Timor had been destroyed
– Julia said she spent her days volunteering at a local
clinic to help the many sick and injured East Timorese. Tuberculosis,
malaria and dengue fever were major problems at the clinic and,
under the instruction of Australian Air Force Warrant Officer
and medical technician Peter Hind, Julia said she learned a lot
about diagnostics and medical science. Before Warrant Officer
Hind returned to Australia, he offered to help Julia pursue her
dream of a medical career, studying in Australia. "At first
I didn’t think it was possible," Julia said. "But
Peter said that I could stay with his family and he would help
me get into university, and that is how it has worked out. "He
and Starr (Peter’s wife) have given me money, accommodation,
meals, transport and books for university. "I miss East Timor,
but I am so happy and lucky to be here at the same time."
Officer Hind approached QUT for a place for Julia in the Bachelor
of Medical Science – a course often used as a stepping stone
to medicine – and QUT Dean of Science, Professor Graeme
George, stepped in to help with a fee-free place in the course.
"If you send aid to situations like East Timor, you can’t
always be certain it will go where it’s really needed,"
Professor George said. "But if you send back a person then,
hopefully, they will be an inspiration to others." It will
take Julia about seven years to complete her studies.
"If I become a doctor I want to go back to East Timor to
help people," she said, reflecting on the constant medical
shortage in her homeland. "Even with the war, there are only
19 or 20 doctors in East Timor and, when they leave, there will
be problems. I would like to help other students like me to come
to study so we can all make a difference one day."
Julia said Australians could sponsor students from East Timor
like the Hind family had done by calling Warrant Officer Peter
Hind for more information on 0407 210 689 or (07) 5461 1174.
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