The Love Story of East-Timors Independence

This article was originally published at Right Now: Human Rights in Australia

Alias Ruby Blade

Review by Maya Borom

Alias Ruby Blade | Alex Meiller

Alex Meillier’s documentary Alias Ruby Blade is as much a love story about two people – Kirsty Sword and Xanana Gusmao – as it is about their love for Timor-Leste and the country’s struggle for independence in the face of Indonesian occupation and oppression.

Activist, filmmaker and First Lady of Timor-Leste, Kirsty Sword Gusmao, first went to the country in 1990 when it was under Indonesian control and communications in and out of the country was tightly controlled. It was to be a visit that altered the path of not only herself, but arguably that of Timor-Leste itself. Despite the strict conditions prohibiting contact with foreigners, Kirsty was smuggled photographs and letters about the resistance fighters the Falintil (The Armed Forces for the National Liberation of East Timor) and came across images of leader Xanana Gusmao. So began Kirsty’s work to help liberate the country and to make the international community aware of the struggle of the people against Indonesian brutality and torture.

Returning to the country under the guise of setting up adventure tourism ventures, Kirsty and a group of filmmakers including Max Stahl were able to interview key activists and film a peaceful protest calling for independence and showing support for Xanana. Unbeknownst to the Indonesian authorities, Kirsty and her team were able to capture first hand video footage of Indonesian military firing live rounds into the crowd and killing and wounding many. The footage was picked up by the international media who condemned Indonesia’s actions and whom sparked a global interest in this small country struggling quietly for independence.

Interspersed with interviews with Stahl and Kirsty about the shootings, Meillier is able to provide a contrasting viewpoint to the officially sanctioned Indonesian one which was based on an argument of self-defence. The use of footage from within Timor-Leste during this time period thus becomes an invaluable source of evidence for human rights abuse for both the international community but also for the local Timorese in that there is an alternative “truth” to that of the “official” version of events.

The eventual capture of resistance leader Xanana and his subsequent jail sentence did not mean that the resistance to Indonesian rule ceased for each initiative still required approval and sign off by Xanana himself. It was here, as courier, that Kirsty became a crucial player in the struggle for Timor-Leste’s future independence. It was also here, acting in her role as liaison between the outside resistance and Xanana that Kirsty (now operating under the alias of Ruby Blade) developed a deep bond with the leader and it was here that the first whispers of love occurred. Meillier is able to use intimate home video and prison video footage of them both to illustrate the growing relationship between them at a time when it was dangerous to even hint at a liaison.

The documentary Alias Ruby Blade is essential viewing for those interested in a behind-the-scenes look at the major players of the resistance in the lead up to Timor-Leste’s freedom from Indonesian rule. It provides a glimpse behind the public facade of Xanana Gusmao and shines a light on how he rose to Prime Ministerial office. It also tells the story of how one Australian women’s dedication to change and human rights forever altered the history of a country and it’s people.

Copies of Alias Ruby Blade are available to purchase for personal or community/fund raising screenings at, or by emailing  

On Facebook…for study

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On Facebook…for study

Though often viewed as a platform for sending memes, joking with friends and organising events, social media can be used as an effective teaching tool and to increase student participation outside of the confines of the traditional classroom.

Staff at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education (MGSE) use Facebook and Twitter to engage with students who are enrolled in their ‘inclusion’ degrees, which focus on special education, autism, early intervention, language, hearing impairment and inclusion.

Special Education, Inclusion and Early Intervention lecturer Guy Logan says their Facebook page was created in 2011 in response to the number of students using the platform for social networking.

“MGSE Staff now regularly provide links to articles or content that relates to teaching students with disabilities,” he says.

“Student users in turn contribute content to share with fellow students.”

The page also offers ideas on how to engage students with disabilities and actively encourages student feedback.

Recent posts to the MGSE_Inclusion Facebook page include links to a story about a second grade student creating a ‘buddy bench’ for children to sit on if they are feeling left out or lonely, pictorial charts on building language, and visual transition cues.

It also has posts to relevant jobs which encourages current students to think about their transition from a student to a working professional.

Staff are also engaging with their students and Twitter. The @MGSE_Inclusion Twitter account is used by staff to tweet out links to relevant stories, and is also being embraced by students who are increasingly live tweeting comments and questions during lectures.

Mr Logan says that students will often pose questions, make observations of key points or even add links that they think contribute to their peers’ understanding of the topic at hand.

“The class of 2013 even enjoyed a live tweet-up of their graduating ceremony proving just how embedded social media platforms can be in a good way!” he says.

Mr Logan says social media shouldn’t just be viewed as a way of communicating to current students.

It also helps staff stay in contact with Alumni, many of whom actively participate in the conversation with current students and staff by alerting them to current job opportunities, sharing practical ideas from their first-hand experience and by posting updates about their professional working life.

As the Inclusion cohorts grow, so too will the ability of staff and students to interact on social media as they’ll be able to contribute to the content with their learned experiences and also encourage and engage the newest members of their school community.

MGSE Twitter can be found via @MGSE_Inclusion

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