Joan Grant

Jamie Mackie’s recent death was a sad reminder of a time when enthusiasm for Asian studies mirrored the Australian government’s developing perception that the future lay in ‘our’ part of the world. The small cohort of academics who initiated these studies were genuine pioneers. For instance, Mackie, in the decades after 1958, became founding Head of Indonesian Studies at Melbourne University, founding Research Director of South-East Asian Studies at Monash University, and founding Professor of Political and Social Change in the Pacific and Asia at the Australian National University. Prior to World War II, there had been virtually no Asian studies in Australia. Now the field was wide open for those who were skilled and interested, and Herb Feith was among the earliest.

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On YouTube, the guerrilla fighter Nino Konis Santana is presented Che Guevara style, in fatigues with beret and rifle, against the East Timorese flag. Villagers sing his praises in the local dialect of Lospalos, his remote birthplace. Santana, both a national and a folk hero, holds a revered place in a country which desperately needs unifying symbols. He became the rebels’ operational commander in 1993 after Xanana Gusmão and his deputy were captured, and when Santana died in the mountains in 1998 at the age of thirty-nine, José Ramos-Horta, the rebellion’s voice in exile, declared his death ‘a tragic loss for the People of East Timor’. This was the man journalist Jill Jolliffe set out to find, some four years before his death.

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