"I owe the Timorese people my father's life" - Mary MacKillop Today

“I owe the Timorese people my father’s life”

We recently spoke with one of our supporters, Mary Haire. She told us the incredible story of her father, Jerry Haire, who served in Timor-Leste in 1942. Mary will never forget the Timorese people who saved his life.

“We, as children of these commandos owe the Timorese people our fathers’ lives. Nothing we could do could ever repay them, but we need to do what we can.”

My father was one of the commandos on Timor Leste: despite being outnumbered, they were the only unit of soldiers to refuse to surrender to the Japanese throughout World War Two. The commandos asked the Timorese people to help them — to be their ears and eyes and provide them with food. Those families who assisted them later described the Australian soldiers as being kind to them. The people responded in kind.

Families offered their sons as ‘criados’. They were boys, some as young as 14 or 15 years old. Every Australian commando was assigned one criado and those boys took the soldiers’ lives into their hands every day. It was a huge risk for the boys to take. If they’d been caught by Japanese soldiers, they would’ve been murdered. Some were.

Without the criados and the support of their villages, the Australians would not have survived. Australia has an enormous debt of gratitude to Timor-Leste. And for me, a personal debt because of what the Timorese people did for my father. But Australia has never compensated Timor-Leste. It’s been 80 years and the Timorese people are yet to be recognised formally.

The inspiring influence of my father and knowing what he went through in Timor-Leste made me want to support Mary MacKillop Today. I decided straight away to include a gift in my Will. I want my money to go to good charities that I believe in. And helping the Timorese people is at the top of my list. I feel that the country is so poor and so deserving. We, as children of those commandos, owe the Timorese people our fathers’ lives. Nothing we could do could ever repay them, but we need to do what we can.

The Timorese people hadn’t had enough access to education, so I was really excited by the work of Sr Josephine and Sr Susan who were part of the beginnings of the Josephites’ teaching in Timor-Leste. Those two women are outstanding human beings and eloquent leaders. I just felt compelled to get involved.

When you educate the kids, the parents get educated as well. It’s a flow-on effect. And for people in Timor-Leste to be educated in their own language is crucial. The next generation will benefit from this work.

I’d encourage others to consider donating or leaving a bequest. Mary MacKillop is a unifying figure who went out of her way to help people experiencing poverty. I know that my late father would’ve been extremely happy to support Mary’s work to this day.

We are incredibly thankful for Mary’s thoughtful generosity to support our work in memory of her father and the amazing people who helped keep him alive in Timor-Leste. Including Mary MacKillop Today in your Will is a wonderful way to help people in some of the most vulnerable situations around the world to flourish. If you’d like to know more, please contact April de Haan on (02) 8912 2720 or [email protected] for a confidential conversation.