His Excellency Abel Guterres is the Ambassador of Timor-Leste to Brunei. Ambassador Guterres previously held the role of Ambassador to Australia (2010-2020) and Consul General for Timor-Leste in Sydney from 2002 to 2008. As Consul General, he played a leading role with laying the foundations for the many friendship cities especially in Victoria and New South Wales. During the struggle for the independence of Timor-Leste, he was in Australia first as a refugee in 1975 and later as an Australian resident and citizen. Ambassador Guterres is an alumni of DTP’s 10th Annual Regional Human Rights Defenders Program in 2000.
He was a teacher in Baucau when civil war broke out in East Timor in 1974. He fled to Darwin weeks before the Indonesian invasion and wound up in Melbourne without a word of English.
Among at least fourteen of his close family killed by the Indonesian army was his father Reciboro. Abel Guterres was only to return to East Timor in 1999. In the meantime he became an indefatigable advocate for the independence of East Timor.
A great many East Timorese refugees wound up in Melbourne following the Indonesian invasion and it was from there that Abel Guterres campaigned for the Australian Government to grant them permanent residency. He was eventually successful in 1977. Because he was not qualified to teach in an Australian school, Guterres worked on Melbourne trams and buses, donating the bulk of his earnings to the campaign for independence.
His high profile in the Timorese community was boosted when he became the Australian spokesperson for Fretilin, one of the largest political parties before the Indonesian invasion and the largest resistance group following it. When the various political groupings within and outside Timor formed the National Council for Timorese Resistance, Abel Guterres became its Australian spokesperson. He was also responsible for the creation and promotion of “friendship groups” between Australia and Timor, and numerous Australian local government authorities added their voices to the cause of an independent Timor.
He was awarded a British Council fellowship to Oxford University in 1998 where he studied international law and politics. Abel Guterres was a participant in DTP’s 10th Annual Program in 2000. These equipped him even more for his position within the newly independent Timor-Leste’s Foreign Ministry. He returned to Canberra in May 2010 as Ambassador to Australia.
His long time association and collaboration with the co-founder of DTP, José Ramos-Horta, has made Abel Guterres a strong supporter of DTP and its programs. He kindly agreed to be a Special Guest at the 2008 annual program of the organisation and as Ambassador graciously took part in DTP’s 20th anniversary celebrations in 2010.