On Sunday June 17th 2001, at the Paddington RSL Club in Sydney, Australia, Dr Dan Murphy addressed a well-attended gathering of people interested in developments in East Timor.
Dr Murphy spoke to over 100 people on his life and work in East Timor for the last three years. He discussed his first year there at length, covering the period from September 1998 until the ballot in August 1999 and referred to the growth in injuries and casualties arising from the development of the Indonesian army backed militias.
He pointed out, as many others have, that decisive action at that time by any of several foreign governments, including Australia and the United States could have stopped the existence of the murderous militias that reigned such havoc on the defenceless people of East Timor for over a year. He also conclusively linked the Indonesian army to the militias.
It was common for him to speak his mind on the oppressive situation then and the increasing casualties and this led to his deportation shortly before the ballot in August 1999.
In September 1999 Dan Murphy came back into East Timor with the Interfet forces and established his clinic at Bairo Pite, in Dili. Since that time the clinic has held over 175,000 consultations with Timorese people, and he personally has seen over 650 patients on one day. A short video of the clinic operations was shown, highlighting the maternity ward and the tuberculosis ward, built by volunteer Australian labour, and showing a mobile clinic setting up in Ermera, scene of many atrocities in the post-ballot rampage of killing, raping and looting.
With the impending departure of the Red Cross from East Timor, now that they consider the emergency phase is over, Dan sees the role of the Bairo Pite clinic as expanding to fill the void left by the departure of many experienced health professionals at the hospital. He nominates the main areas of concern as tuberculosis and malaria and notes that there are many cases of post-traumatic stress causing diverse problems for the people.
The armed forces of many of the countries that make up the Peace Keeping Force have been helpful in the building and development of the clinic and particular help has been received from the Australian army and the U.S. Marines in conducting dental clinics, and in building projects. Dr Murphy gratefully acknowledges their contributions.
Dr Murphy mentioned that the funding of the clinic's activities is largely dependent on donations. The central pharmacy of the health department provides some medicines but some more expensive drugs have to be brought in from Australia.
He highlighted the major needs of the clinic as being ongoing funding and the continued assistance of volunteer medical specialists from countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
At the end of his talk he answered many and varied questions from a very impressed and appreciative audience.