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MEDIA - ABC Radio Darwin - Transcript - Flooding and disaster relief in Timor-Leste - Luke Gosling OAM MP | Federal Member for Solomon

MEDIA – ABC Radio Darwin – Transcript – Flooding and disaster relief in Timor-Leste

DARWIN – 6 April 2021

ADAM STEER, HOST: Luke Gosling is the member for Solomon, spent a lot of time over in Timor-Leste. Will you be organising something so that we can donate to Timor-Leste, Luke Gosling?

LUKE GOSLING, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR SOLOMON: Yeah, g’day Adam. As Celio the consul-general here in Darwin just mentioned, there are some Go Fund Me pages that have already been set up so I won’t set up another one. But there’s been so many calls over the weekend from people all around Darwin wanting to know how they can assist. Caritas and Vinnie’s – unsurprisingly two Catholic-linked NGOs, charities, who do work on the ground there – are seeing what the best thing is for them to do. Obviously, Timor being a mainly Catholic country, they’re very invested there. But my efforts over the weekend have been talking to the Foreign Minister’s office to try and ascertain what the Federal Government is able to do. And I understand from the Timor embassy in Canberra that their official request is imminent to ask for that support. But basically, as Celio was saying, the massive problem there is drinking water and food, because if you can imagine your own street with a metre of water, muddy water flowing down it, if you can imagine your own bedroom, half-filled with water, that’s sort of what is the reality of people in Dili at the moment. And obviously complicating this is as they get together, 7,000 people in Dili in evacuation centres, there’s the threat of disease and spread.

STEER: Yeah. And also the spread of COVID at the same time, on top of all of the other normal diseases that you would face in that situation. Is Australia offering enough support at the moment? What are you what indication you’re getting off the Federal Government?

GOSLING: Australia needs to step up. I’ve given them some free advice, which is to start getting assets pre-deployed before heading over to Timor, particularly to help out with fresh drinking water. Because it takes a while to mobilise that sort of support, you don’t have to wait to get the official letter from the Timor-Leste Government to know that this is a city in crisis. Some on the ground that I’ve known for 20-plus years are saying this could be much worse than the crisis of 2006, when you had those internally displaced people camps, you had civil unrest. People are saying it’s worse than that.

And part of the reason why is because COVID-19 had already made things really difficult for people in Dili because they’ve been shut down. We’re talking about a place with no JobKeeper, no JobSeeker. We’re talking about people that have had their livelihoods ruined before all this water rushed through their town and literally covered everything in mud. So their ability to bounce back from this is compromised, their ability to get the vaccine out quickly – it’s going to be difficult.

And that’s why I’m really obviously so proud that so many Territorians have stood up and are ready and willing to help. And we’re just hoping that the Federal Government can do something serious very soon.

STEER: Where are they up to with their vaccine rollout, as far as you understand?

GOSLING: It just arrived.

STEER: Yeah. And then floated away, you were saying.

GOSLING: So the whole – it’s called Samez, and it is in one of the areas, the large warehouses where all teams, medical equipment, supplies, consumables, and vaccines are kept. And it was inundated. So they really need some assistance. And I know that that assistance will come from the general community. Generally as a rule, the aid organisations always say if you can donate some funds, that allows them to do more on the ground rather than stockpiling of goods that the people on the ground working find it difficult to get to the people who need it, if that makes sense. So I would just ask those people who are thinking about donating clothes, baby goods, just to think about how it’s going to get there, who’s going to distribute it on the other end? And always dollars are very, very helpful, and even small amounts are helpful because, you know, as I say, drinking water and food that can be got locally, but they’re going to need a hand. They’re going to need big amounts of drinking water and big amounts of emergency food.

STEER: Okay, so there is a Go Fund Me page up. There’s also your suggestion to donate to some of those – Caritas or St Vinnie’s, the Catholic organisations who have a presence over in Timor-Leste.

GOSLING: Yeah, I’ve worked with Caritas before. They’re a great organisation and funds donated to them will be able to help. Over there in East Timor, the church is such a big part of the infrastructure, the logistics infrastructure of supporting the community, particularly in times of crisis. So that will be a very effective way of getting support onto the ground. But also, as Celio mentioned, Rosa Carrascalao, who’s the sister of Jose Ramos-Horta, she’s raised over $10,000 on her Go Fund Me as well. And they are good people. And I know that the former president, Jose Ramos Horta, will make sure that those funds get onto the ground to help people in a very practical and direct way.

STEER: Good on you, Luke Gosling, good to hear from you this morning. Appreciate your time.

GOSLING: Thanks Adam.