This site brings together the publications of Dr. Sara Niner about people & politics in Timor-Leste.

30 May, 2011

BACKSTORY: Domestic violence a legacy of Timor conflict

It's a topic that can be tough to talk about and very often it isn't talked about domestic violence and sexual violence and we're looking the situation in East Timor.

Presenter: Liam Cochrane
Speakers: Dr Sara Niner, Monash University; Mira Martins da Silva, the Director of the non-government organisation, PRADET; Margaret Gibbons, a doctor with Fatin Hakmatek, which provides care for victims of domestic violence, sexual assult, child abuse and abandonment.


23 May, 2011

Xanana watching footage of his 1992 capture

Xanana watching footage of his 1992 capture

Interesting Dateline segment on Xanana watching and commenting on footage of his 1992 capture in Dili. Xanana was very calm sitting on the big leather lounges in his office, looking almost confounded by his younger self and that man’s composed, even friendly, resistance to the entreaties of the Indonesia generals to tell his men to lay down their arms and call the whole resistance struggle off (which he did under much greater pressure in the months to follow). His responses were muted and it was interesting to wonder how this would play out in his very close relations with the Indonesian political elite today, some of whom like the Indonesian President are ex-military.
The reaction to the footage was also recorded of the Timorese policeman Augusto Pereira whose house Xanana was hiding in and who was jailed and tortured for 6 years after Xanana's capture. Most of his family too was jailed and they had never reunited after their imprisonment. His reactions could not have been more different to Xanana's, he detailed the horrific torture he received and unlike other torture survivors Xanana has valorized (those in his movie ‘A Heroes Journey’ for instance) for forgiving their torturers and moving on with their lives, he seemed stuck in those terrifying moments of his past and his life defined by them.

10 May, 2011

La Trobe University Seminar: Politics of Gender in Timor-Leste: Sara Niner: Thurs 26 May 12:30

The Centre for Dialogue, La Trobe University
Seminar Series presents
Between Earth and Heaven: the Politics of Gender in Timor-Leste
with Sara Niner
Thursday 26th May 12:30 - 2:00pm
Centre for Dialogue Seminar Room 301
Social Sciences Building La Trobe University, Bundoora
Light lunch provided
Gender inequality in post-conflict Timor-Leste (East Timor) is well-documented and there is pressure for women to conform to ‘traditional’ cultural norms now the war is over, yet a strong women’s movement resists this pressure. However, any rise in status for the majority of women must be made through an engagement with indigenous or ‘traditional’ society as that is culturally dominant in Timor. The impact of recent conflict and violence has been profound for the new nation and its people, with public and private or domestic violence still pervasive. The male political and military elite dominant in Timor-Leste today is seen as largely responsible for outbreaks of violence on a national scale (2004-8) and these contemporary events lead us to define Timorese post-conflict society as militaristic in nature. A strong culture of male political domination in Timor-Leste today holds back the women’s movement, along with development, security and a more expansive version of democracy. While ‘gender’ has featured heavily on the development agenda of Timor- Leste over the last ten years little intellectual analysis has been made of what these trends mean for development, security and democracy there.
Dr Sara Niner is an Adjunct Research Fellow in the Arts Faculty at Monash University. She has recently completed a research program on gender relations in the post-conflict period while on an Endeavour Fellowship in partnership with the National Directorate of Culture in Timor-Leste. This follows a two year postdoctoral fellowship at Monash researching women, development and handcrafts in Timor-Leste. She is the editor of ‘To Resist is to Win: the Autobiography of Xanana Gusmão with selected letters and speeches’ (Aurora/ David Lovell Publishing 2000). Her new book ‘XANANA: Leader of the Struggle for Independent Timor-Leste’ (2009) is published by Australian Scholarly Publishing and is currently being translated into Portuguese. This book was based on her PhD completed in the politics department at La Trobe University in 2005. Please visit