Australia, East Timor, Missing Maritime Boundaries: Is Australia’s position fair? Is it sustainable?

On 29 September 2016, Janelle Saffin (ex Labor MP and human rights activist) spoke at the School of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities – Seminar Series, on Australia, East Timor, Missing Maritime Boundaries: Is Australia’s position fair?  Is it sustainable? 

This paper examines Australia’s continental shelf-natural prolongation claim in the Timor Sea. Drawing on international law, UNCLOS and concomitant case law, it examines how Australia has  persistently refused to negotiate maritime boundaries with East Timor. It also reveals the role Australia’s singular de jure recognition of Indonesia’s illegal occupation of Timor-Leste has played in the petroleum politics of the Timor Sea, along with its withdrawal from the arbitral jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, and the International Law of the Sea on the eve of East Timor’s restoration of independence.

It is argued though the Australian Government has rhetorically emphasised the positive role of bilateral negotiations in these disputes, it has persistently refused to do so with East Timor.



Janelle Saffin has been engaged in East Timor’s quest for independence since the 1980s and will stay engaged until the maritime boundaries between our countries are settled.  Janelle has been a Federal MP, State MP, lawyer, teacher, abattoir-process-factory worker, bar attendant, check out operator and more.  Leaving school at 13 she self-educated and has in her words, “carved out an interesting life of activism doing good and being a moral busybody.” She was awarded an Order of Timor-Leste for her activism and a Burma Lawyers Council gold award for promoting the rule of law. 

Janelle is Principal of a legal practice Gallagher and Saffin Lawyers & Attorneys in her home town of Lismore and has worked as adviser to the Timor-Leste Government and is Special Adviser to Nobel Laureate José Ramos-Horta. 

Time to Draw the Line, Campaign Director Australia

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