Search the Collection
Advanced Search

Unused ballot paper from the 1999 referendum for independence in East Timor

Date: 1999
Overall: 148 x 210 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Australian Electoral Commission
Object Name: Ballot paper
Object No: 00050676

User Terms

    This unused ballot paper relates to the 1999 United Nations-sponsored referendum for independence in East Timor. The ballot paper asks voters to accept or reject the proposed special autonomy for East Timor within the Republic of Indonesia.

    SignificanceOnly 650 km of ocean separates Australia from East Timor. This small stretch of sea has created links between our two countries that have shaped the history of both nations. When Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975, many East Timorese refugees fled to Australia. Refugee communities here gave East Timorese a voice during their long fight for independence. This ballot paper from the historic 1999 independence referendum is symbolic of this long struggle. In the referendum an overwhelming 78.5% voted in favour of independence from Indonesia, while only 21.5% voted to become an autonomous province within Indonesia.
    HistoryOn 14 August 1975, the freighter MACDILI limped into Darwin Harbour carrying more than 250 refugees fleeing East Timor. A brief, bloody civil war had erupted after Portugal gave up its colony of East Timor. News of the fighting reached Australia with the refugees.

    Rumours circulated of Indonesian forces fighting along the country's border. In November 1975, East Timor's left wing Fretilin party declared independence.

    On 7 December 1975, Indonesian warships launched a full scale assault, signalling 25 years of occupation. Indonesia incorporated East Timor as its 27th province in July 1976. Australia was one of the few nations that officially recognised Indonesian control.

    In 1996 East Timorese diplomat Jose Ramos Horta and Catholic priest Bishop Carlos Belo were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Global pressure mounted against Indonesia and in 1999, after 25 years, a new Indonesian government allowed East Timor to vote for its future.

    On 30 August 1999, East Timorese people flocked to the polling booths. An overwhelming 78.5% of East Timorese ticked the box for independence. As refugee communities in Australia celebrated, Indonesian-backed militias went on a violent rampage in East Timor, killing 1,400 people and forcing 300,000 into West Timor.

    Demonstrations around the world demanded United Nations' intervention. On 20 September 1999, Australians led an international peacekeeping force (INTERFET) into Dili to help stabilise the devastated country. East Timor lost a third of its population in the fight for independence - more than 200,000 people.

    On 30 August 2001 the first democratic elections were held in East Timor and Xanana Gusmao was elected as the first President. East Timor became an independent nation on 20 May 2002.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Unused ballot paper from the 1999 referendum for independence in East Timor

    Assigned title: Unused ballot paper from the 1999 referendum for independence in East Timor

    Discuss this Object


    Please log in to add a comment.