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Development   /  Gil Scrine

Reluctant Saviour: Australia’s Secret War on East Timor

The trial of two Australians charged under draconian “terror laws” blows the lid off Australia’s darkest secret.


Impact areas




  • DIRECTOR Gil Scrine

  • PRODUCER Gil Scrine



By 1999, Indonesia’s 24-year brutal occupation of East Timor is coming to an end, yet Indonesia will not give up. By early September, the UN compound in Dili is under siege; beyond its gates the city is burning and East Timor’s long-held dream of independence is slipping away. For Australia, billions in oil and gas are at stake and the future is uncertain. Twenty years later, a conspiracy trial is beginning in Canberra that threatens to reveal these dark secrets - the cover-up of a genocide in East Timor second only to the Holocaust, the aborted plan to abandon East Timor to its fate in 1999 and Australia’s illegal grab for the spoils of war.

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52.03% funded
  • $100,000.00

  • $52,030.22

  • June 2023

  • 185

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Marg O'Donnell $200.00
Alan Fitzgerald $50.00
Jude Conway $100.00
Mark Bachmann $100.00
Anonymous $50.00
Teifi Caron $50.00
Kathryn Ke $50.00
Adrienne Shilling $80.00
Helen White $100.00
Kay McPadden $50.00
Richard Barnes $100.00
Vera Yee $500.00
Dorothy Babb $50.00
Andrew Craig $100.00
andrew sinclair $10.00
Anonymous $3,000.00
Lisbeth Hampel $500.00
dale hess $500.00
Irene Gale $50.00
Judy Lambert $50.00
R Westcott $50.00
Catherine Howard $30.00
Dan Toner $50.00
Debra Kilby $500.00
Winston Furlong $100.00
Yvonne Langley Walsh $500.00
Alan Fitzgerald $200.00
Anonymous $100.00
Robin Osborne $100.00
Trevor Graham $1,000.00
Gavin Baumanis $50.00
Mark Aarons $100.00
Anonymous $50.00
Edward Ford $20.00
Janice Lumley $500.00
Anonymous $20.00
Chips Mackinolty $50.00
Anonymous $100.00
Bob Reed $50.00
Cathy Picone $100.00
William Harvey $100.00
Karen Edyvane $100.00
Brian Hopper $100.00
Anonymous $20.00
Anonymous $1,000.00
Nigel Lott $50.00
Ian Tuit $100.00
Anonymous $50.00
Judith deBoer $100.00
Anonymous $20.00
ian fraser $100.00
Leonie Ebert $50.00
Sandra Dann $50.00
Christine James $20.00
Veronica Stephenson $50.00
Irene Gale $50.00
Cathy Picone $100.00
Trina&Jan Supit $100.00
John Hughes $100.00
Colin Kropman $500.00
Anonymous $100.00
Trevor Graham $100.00
Peter Lindenmayer $1,000.00
Thomas Hayes $200.00
Patricia Edmunds $100.00
Beate Stalph $50.00
Anonymous $50.00
Kathryn Kelly $50.00
Gregory Stevens $50.00
Rowan Huxtable $100.00
David Young $100.00
Anonymous $150.00
thomas goodman $500.00
Andrew Collins $500.00
Bonnie Chaplin $100.00
Karen Taylor $100.00
Krystyna Pindral $50.00
Gabrielle Fogarty $25.00
Carolyn Brooks $50.00
Philippa O’Dowd $20.00
Malcolm Pinkerton $100.00
Tobias Cole $100.00
Russell Ashley $25.00
Robert Harris $20.00
Helen Eager $50.00
Paul Regnault $25.00
callan payne $750.00
Judy Ferguson $50.00
Irene Gale $50.00
Trish FitzSimons $75.00
Anonymous $50.00
Grant Solomon $50.00
Michael Butson $50.00
Andrea de Wattignar $100.00
Irene Gale $50.00
Anonymous $20.00
Chris Adams $50.00
Lara van Raay $100.00
Annette Brownlie $50.00
Sally Mullooly $30.00
Brynn Mathews $50.00
John Feneley $200.00
Dr Helen M Hill $100.00
Patricia Rutherford $20.00
Anonymous $50.00
Anonymous $200.00
Bill Harvey $50.00
Kate Laughlan $100.00
Anonymous $20.00
Michael Sagan $50.00
Anonymous $50.00
Anonymous $35.00
Owen HARRIS $100.00
Jane Touzeau $100.00
Cathy Henkel $100.00
Anonymous $100.00
Lia Sargent $50.00
Michael Robert $30.00
Madeleine Blackwell $500.00
Roger King $100.00
Elise West $50.00
Tait BRADY $25.00
Simon Doyle $100.00
Jacqueline Schneider $50.00
Judith Ehrlich $7,672.85
Anne and Dave O'Brien $767.28
Union of Australian Women Queensland $1,000.00
Union of Australian Women Queensland $1,000.00
Sarah Bradley $50.00
Kathryn Kelly $50.00
Janette McLeod $100.00
Anonymous $500.00
Rosemary Lynch $100.00
Anonymous $50.00
Donald Barnes $250.00
Anonymous $50.00
Simon Jane $50.00
Anonymous $50.00
Catherine Waters $50.00
Andrew Martin $50.00
annie crane $50.00
Alison Sexton-Green $500.00
Luise Ashley $50.00
Anonymous $100.00
Janet Castle $1,000.00
Maire Leadbeater $50.00
David Falcon $10.00
Bob Nelson $100.00
David Harvey $50.00
Adrienne Shilling $100.00
Robert Garrard $100.00
John Hughes $100.00
Anonymous $200.00
Anonymous $50.00
Susan and Josephine Connelly and Mitchell $500.00
Krystyna Pindral $25.00
Bill Harvey $100.00
Anonymous $25.00
Sally Mullooly $20.00
Hamish McDonald $50.00
Winston Furlong $100.00
Anonymous $500.00
Edith Steele $10.00
David Weisbrot $250.00
Anonymous $20.00
Lachlan Mullins $50.00
Michael Henry $100.00
Anonymous $50.00
Annette Brownlie $50.00
Maire Sheehan $100.00
Georgina Greenhill $50.00
Brendan Doyle $100.00
Jack Golson $50.00
Kate Golson $100.00
Katherine Thomson $150.00
Carey Ryan $50.00
Peter Gill $500.00
Anthony B Cole $500.00
Anonymous $100.00
Roslyn Dunlop $100.00
Irene Gale $30.00

Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

RELUCTANT SAVIOUR shows how Australia’s “national interest” is used to cover up crimes against humanity. When the Australian-led peace-keeping force known as INTERFET entered East Timor in September 1999, another story is unfolding, more complex, dramatic and sinister than this ‘heroic liberation’ might seem; RELUCTANT SAVIOUR is a story to set the record straight so we may learn from East Timor’s dark history something about ourselves, our governments and our democracy.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

Australia is a democratic state but when It comes to ‘national Interest’ we are ruled by a 'deep state' - an unelected, unaccountable and amoral few who stand above politics. But the deep state responds to public pressure as we see in the events of September 1999 when East Timor stood at the brink of survival. Today, the secret trial of Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery leads to an understanding of this reality. Only public pressure can bring these two heroes the justice they deserve.


What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

Short-term outcomes: A worldwide festival campaign earns a reputation for RELUCTANT SAVIOUR that flows on to exhibitors, publicists, critics and the general public. Festival accolades mean ink in trade mags, pop culture reviews, newspapers, off and online. Only through a solid international reputation will the film’s vital message get cut-through, to work the next level in ANZ and the world.
Medium-term outcomes: Box office results speak for themselves and in turn enable our film to reach, not only the cognoscenti but audiences who may not yet have thought about the importance of our film’s message.
Long-term outcomes: Awareness of the need for transparency in government as we face challenges from climate change, the rise of China and diminishing US power. Australians particularly need a confronting film that demonstrates the power of democracy. Practically, our film is used in all manner of ways to raise funds to allay poverty in Timor Leste, to whom Australia owes so much.


How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

Those unfamiliar with how Australia liberated East Timor from a bloodthirsty Indonesian army in 1999, may think Australia “saved East Timor”. Nothing could be further from the truth. What really happened, why it happened and logical conclusions about Australia and its relationships in the world is the business of RELUCTANT SAVIOUR.
We want audiences to be aghast and compelled to action against the mendacity and cruelty of Australia’s deep state. To help audiences pursue practical initiatives we will create a hierarchy of “things to do after watching RELUCTANT SAVIOUR”. Suggestions ranging from such basics as donating to alleviate poverty in Timor Leste, to “people power” initiatives that seek justice for the two whistle-blowers in the film (K/Collaery) whose lives are already ruined. Bernard Collaery’s un-published book about his ordeal is so heavily redacted by our deep state, it is virtually banned. Publication in full is a major outcome we expect by virtue of public outrage.


How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

RELUCTANT SAVIOUR is informed by interviews with guerrilla leaders, Presidents, Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers of TL past and present; long-time Timor watchers, academic researchers, ex-intelligence officers and a host of others whose expert knowledge is applied to a story that begs to be told. Many books also inform the narrative by authors such as Ian Martin (UN Chief of Mission) as well as eyewitnesses and journalists without whose courage and reporting TL would not be free today.
Partnerships informing the narrative include the Australia East Timor Association, East Timor Action Network (US), Friends of Timor Leste, TL Maritime Boundary Office (Dili) and Timor Sea Justice Campaign. Australian trade unions (CFMEU, Transport Workers, Nurses, Teachers and Maritime Unions) have promised donations. Donors have come from all quarters of society, proving that our story cuts across class lines and bodes well for a depth of audience unusual in a political documentary.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

Call to Action #1: Write to the Attorney General of Australia demanding the dropping of all charges against ASIS agent, Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery
Call to Action #2: Sign the petition that calls for the publication in full of the almost totally redacted un-published book by Bernard Collaery. Banning of books that expose government chicanery and corruption should not be a part of our Australian democracy. This is a Free Speech Issue of the highest order.
Call to Action #3. Donate to initiatives created by Ines Almeida (next TL Ambassador to Australia) that alleviate PTSD. Veterans of Timor’s guerrilla army, Falintil, the Australian-led intervention force Interfet, Australian Federal Police, journalists who covered the story – all are welcome. Alleviating poverty in TL is a similar call to action. Still one of the poorest countries in Asia, there are many programs and people lining up to help. Our partnership with Friends of Timor Leste network enables audience contributio

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

Measuring short-term outcomes (a solid international reputation): Accolades that build reputation are used repeatedly as branding on all film materials, copy and paraphernalia. Reputation builds a platform from which to make the changes we have outlined. Tools used include repetition, social media and graphic design.
Measuring medium-term outcomes (reach beyond cognoscenti): One of our distribution partners is Demand.Film, controlling over 2500 cinemas in 7 countries and specializing in films “outside the mainstream”, especially documentaries. Demand for changes as outlined can only increase from a wider audience base. Tools include audience data analysis and social media to disseminate our “calls to action”
Measuring long-term outcomes: (demonstrate the power of democracy; help alleviate poverty in TL) Success of our first 2 measures clearly demonstrates the power of democracy. Helping to alleviate poverty in TL is measured over time using statistical tools and audience word of mouth.