Subject: CT: Balibo memorial proposed; Walk would mark deaths

The Canberra Times

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Balibo memorial proposed; Walk would mark deaths

By Jessica Wright

IT IS one of the most picturesque and peaceful parks in Canberra but a local think tank believes Lennox Gardens in Yarralumla should commemorate the slaying of a group of Australian and New Zealand journalists the Balibo Five. Canberra Institute director Peter Conway has lobbied the ACT and federal governments to rename a section of the park Balibo Walk and include the name on signposting in honour of the slain men. In a letter addressed to federal Minister for Home Affairs and Territories Brendan O'Connor and Chief Minister Jon Stanhope, MrConway says it is a timely issue in light of the recent coronial inquiries into the five murders that took place at Balibo in East Timor (then Portuguese Timor) on October 16, 1975 by Indonesian troops. A sixth Australian journalist, Roger East, was later killed when he went to investigate the deaths of the five men.

A feature film depicting East's search for the five men, Balibo, starring a high- profile Australian cast, is due to be released this month and has helped re- ignite public interest in the infamous case. ''The time is opportune to re-examine ... the Lennox Gardens sign Peace Park to include a new walk called Balibo Walk to honour the memories of the Balibo Six,'' Mr Conway said. ''It has been a case that at the time was not much talked about because of the political implications between Indonesia and Australia, but I think we are all grown up and it is time to accept this was, and is, an important issue that it happened and commemorate it properly.''

The relationship between East Timor, Indonesia and Australia had reached such a level of rapprochement that the issue could be discussed sensibly, Mr Conway said. There is at present a small plaque that recognises the tragic events of 1975 in Lennox Gardens, a popular picnic and wedding venue tucked behind the Hyatt Hotel on the edge of Lake Burley Griffin. The Canberra Institute would like to see this expanded into a public walking area that displays historical information on the events that led to the killings. ACT Place Names Committee co-chairman and chief surveyor Bill Hirst said due process would need to be fulfilled for any potential name change.

''[The committee's] role is to reflect in names the national interest, the nation's history,'' he said. Mr Hirst said regarding Balibo Walk, wider consultation with the community would be preferred. ''Their input on public places, such as parks, is always very useful,'' he said. National Museum of Australia historian and ACT Place Names Committee co- chairwoman Jay Arthur was not aware of the proposal but said it would be considered in due course.

''It is certainly an interesting suggestion,'' she said. National Press Club president Ken Randall has given the proposal his support and club members have expressed their approval to Mr Conway. Lennox Gardens was officially named in 1963 after David Lennox, an early bridge builder in NSW and Victoria.

The park was part of the original Royal Canberra Golf course now underneath the lake. The part of the golf course which was spared a watery grave became Lennox Gardens. It has a number of memorials and monuments, such as Kasuga stone lanterns presented to Canberra by Japan in April 1997, a monument to Australians in the Spanish Civil War, and a stone monument commemorating the centenary of Federation and the Jewish National Fund. Within the grounds is the Canberra Nara Park, symbolising the friendship between Canberra and its sister city Nara, Japan.

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