Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Phil Brennan, who writes:
Your readers may be interested in this article detailing a clandestine radio station that was set up between the Fretlin rebels in East Timor (now Timor Leste) and supporters based in Darwin where I live. The Fretlin rebels fought against the Indonesian occupation until the country’s independence in 2002. In the 1970s this was the only method of obtaining information on the brutal repression of the Timorese people by the Indonesian dictatorship
The man featured in the article, Brian Manning Snr., who died a couple years ago was a well known activist and trade unionist in the Northern Territory. He was also very involved in the campaign for Aboriginal workers to receive equal pay and conditions in the 1960s. This campaign was instrumental in raising the profile of the Aboriginal land rights movement in Australia. Brian Manning Jr. Is a good friend of mine.
(Source: ABC News)
If someone was to make an Australian version of Forrest Gump, they might look to Brian Manning’s life story for inspiration.
In 1966, he helped the Gurindji strikers in the Wave Hill walk-off. When Cyclone Tracy hit his hometown of Darwin, police commandeered his truck to collect dead bodies. Months later, he became involved in possibly the most important mission of his life.
That mission was Radio Maubere: an underground radio link that operated between Darwin and occupied East Timor during the 70s and 80s.
For many years, it was the only link the Timorese had with the outside world.
“Dad felt very strongly that these people needed to be supported in their struggle,” his son, Brian Manning Jr, said.
“So with a few other people, they got together and formed this radio operation.
“It was vital. There’s no doubt that the Indonesians were in there to systematically reduce the population by any means necessary.
“So these people were just killing people, and these stories had to get out.”
[…]As the years went on, and the list of confiscated radio transmitters grew longer and Manning’s tricks became more and more creative.
“They had a few decoy vehicles. And they had a few decoy radios. And they had people rendezvous with them in the bush in certain areas,” Brian Manning Jr said.
Often one person would set up the transmitter, another would come along and use it, and a third would arrive to pack it up and transport it out of danger.
[…]The broadcasters even devised their own coded language to communicate top secret information, remembers one of the group’s members, Robert Wesley-Smith.
“They each had a book, and the code would direct them to a page or something. It was very slow … but it was a great adventure,” Mr Wesley-Smith said.
Whatever problems Manning and his crew had in Australia were nothing compared to the dangers faced by those operating on the other end, where gunshots could sometimes be heard in the background.
There was a constant need to get new transmitters into the country, and an engineer from Sydney came up with an ingenious method for avoiding detection.
“It now fell to the resourcefulness of Andrew, who created a transmitter out of a ghetto blaster,” Manning wrote in his book.[…]