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This story shows how one individual can change the course of history.

The Human Rights Arts and Film Festival is currently touring Australia.
The film ‘Alias Ruby Blade’ is currently touring Australia with The Human Rights Arts and Film Festival.

By MELISSA WELLHAM

The Indonesian occupation of East Timor is a period of political history still fresh in the minds of many Australians. The brutal and violent invasion, which lasted from 1976 well into the 90s, was a divisive issue in Australia – and indeed, the world over – for many years.

Alias Ruby Blade is a documentary that covers this period of history – but from a never-before-seen perspective.

This is not just a documentary about the tumultuous birth of a new nation. This is also a story of intrigue, revolution and romance.

At the heart of Alias Ruby Blade is Kirsty Sword, a young Australian activist who dreamed of being a documentary filmmaker – but instead became an underground operative for the Timorese resistance in Indonesia.

Kristy Sword - an Australian activist who became an underground operative for the Timorese resistance in Indonesia.
Kirsty Sword – an Australian activist who became an underground operative for the Timorese resistance in Indonesia.
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Code named ‘Ruby Blade’, Kirsty’s task was to act as a conduit of information between the resistance movement and international humanitarian groups, and the imprisoned, charismatic leader of the resistance: Kay Rala “Xanana” Gusmão.

As Xanana and Kirsty worked together to achieve the independence of the East Timorese people, they grew closer and closer – forging a deep bond despite their circumstances.

Through correspondence, they slowly fell in love.

Alias Ruby Blade follows their incredible story from the very beginning, to the triumph of East Timor’s freedom – demonstrating the power of individuals to change the entire course of history.

This remarkable film is screening in Australia as part of the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival (HRAFF), a not-for-profit organisation that aims to challenge and inspire audiences from all walks of life.

The annual film festival explores issues of human rights, and introduces Australian audiences to the injustices, tragedies and triumphs that occur in the lives of many. Many of these injustices are happening on the other side of the word – but sometimes, as in the case of East Timor’s bloody political history, the conflicts are happening much closer to home.

The Human Rights Arts and  Film Festival
The Human Rights Arts and Film Festival aims to educate and engage audiences.
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HRAFF selects films that will engage and educate their audiences – and encourages viewers to talk about their experiences. The film festival has screened for a fortnight in Melbourne – and will spend the next few weeks touring Australia.

With films screening in Sydney from May 28-30, and in Canberra from June 3-5 – as well as making stops in Brisbane, Perth, and Alice Springs – the festival brings together artists, human rights organisations and members of the public from all around Australia. It provides a platform where people can share their desire to contribute to social change.

A film like Alias Ruby Blade reminds you of exactly how important this dedication to social change is – whether from organisations like the UN, or from ordinary citizens who have the power to make their voices heard.

The occupation of East Timor by Indonesia lasted for many years – and as one of our closest geographical neighbours, many people still criticise the decision made by the Australian government to not intervene during this time.

The need for social change and humanitarian development in East Timor did not end after independence, however. East Timor has been irrevocably affected by the decades long Indonesian occupation. The occupation damaged schools and infrastructure, and displaced thousands of civilians. The country is still ranked 134th by the Human Development Index.

In 2006, the United Nations had to send security forces into the country to restore order, when factional fighting forced 155,000 people to flee their homes. The United Nations only ended its peacekeeping mission in East Timor last year.

This is only one country that needs humanitarian aid. There are hundreds more nations around the world – and billions more people – who reply on humanitarian organisations, and the efforts of activists. Who rely on these groups to supply essentials such as shelter, food and water; or who need the international community to speak out against human rights violations, and fight back at corrupt governments.

East Timor is only one country. And Alias Ruby Blade is only one story.

But it is story that shows that one individual can make a difference. And it’s a story that might inspire you to do the same.

Melissa Wellham is a volunteer with the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival.

Click here for more information about the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival.

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