The Long Patrol, by Richard Plunkett

“I remember standing at the window…when that heavy calibre machine gun fire went off. That’s when the crowd of refugees came in, throwing their children over the (razor wire) fence, trying to get over. They were scared to death.” (Grant Taylor, Unamet Translator)

Australia’s involvement with the tiny nation of East Timor began in 1942 when Australian troops invaded the then Portuguese-run country to prevent it being taken by the Japanese. In the ensuing months Australians were helped by the East Timorese, forging a bond between East Timor and Australia. Unfortunately, this bond was not strong enough to see Australia take action when East Timor was crushed by an Indonesian invasion in the 1970s.

In 1999 when international pressure forced a referendum for independence to be held in East Timor, images of East Timorese being massacred were televised, and Australia finally returned to the region, sending a peace-keeping force and helping the country on its road to peaceful independence, a road which is still being travelled in spite of ongoing turmoil.

The Long Patrol is an insightful exploration of East Timor’s history and, especially, of the role played by Australia and Australians since 1942. It explores why and when Australia has been involved and the impact of that involvement – or of its lack. Part of the successful The Drum series from Black Dog books, there is much use made of eyewitness accounts to personalise the events and bring them to life for teen readers.

This is an accessible exploration of a part of Australian history with which many students would be unfamiliar.

The Long Patrol, by Richard Plunkett
Black Dog Books, 2008