Editing translations – English and Tetun

In the early 2000s, Sally-Anne Watson Kane spoke reasonably fluent Tetun and worked with Timorese translators which vastly improved her written Tetun. She  would like to point out, however, that nowadays her spoken and written Tetun is basic and rather rusty, and is a work in progress.


In 1994, Sally-Anne Watson (now Sally-Anne Watson Kane) befriended some Timorese families living in Darwin and became aware of Timor Leste’s struggle for independence. Within a few months, armed with a limited knowledge of Portuguese and an Indonesian phrase-book, she went to Timor Leste to see the situation for herself. During her travels throughout the island, villagers drew her aside and pleaded with her to tell the world what was happening in Timor so they would help the East Timorese people to be free. With the help of some villagers with a smattering of English, Sally-Anne scribed the stories of people across Timor Leste (in a version of shorthand that others would not be able to read) and smuggled her notes, and several cassette recordings of interviews in Tetun and Portuguese, back to Australia.

Upon her return to Darwin, Sally-Anne wrote a collection of non-fiction stories based on what she had seen and heard in Timor Leste, changing the names of places and people so the witnesses would not risk being arrested and tortured. She then worked with her Timorese and Australian colleagues in Darwin to publish a little book – Children of the Resistance – under a pseudonym. This set Sally-Anne on the path of working with Timorese communities in Darwin and Timor Leste to produce publications of oral histories in Tetun and English.

Scribing and editing in Tetun, translating Tetun/English, and editing English translations of Tetun
  • Current projects: scribing oral history in Tetun (2022-current).
  • Tais Don, 2016 (in English and Tetun, published); autobiographical article spoken in Tetun by Veronica Pereira, master weaver, regarding the special woven panels (tais) she produced which had been exhibited at various times over the years concluding in an exhibition in Darwin in 2014. Sally-Anne Watson Kane scribed her words in Tetun and edited the article in Tetun then translated the article and edited it in English, to produce a bilingual article.
  • Buibere: Voice of East Timorese Women, volume 2, 2002 (in English; unpublished): Sally-Anne Watson Kane translated Buibere: Lian Feto Timor Lorosa’e Nian, vol. 2 (a Tetun volume, published in 2001) into English.
  • Buibere: Lian Feto Timor Lorosa’e Nianvol. 2, 2001 (in Tetun; published); compiled and edited in Tetun by Timorese translators and editors. Sally-Anne Watson [Kane] was chief editor supervising the editing of the Tetun publication. ISBN 0_646_41719_3. Copyright Fokupers, Timor Leste; self-publishing assistance and coordination by Sally-Anne Watson Kane. Funded by USAID-OTI, Fokupers and Australian Volunteers International. Some sections translated from original Buibere publication (in English) into Tetun, some sections scribed by Sally-Anne in Tetun. Sally-Anne coordinated a team of over 40 Timorese photographers, translators, designers, editors and researchers, edited and compiled this publication in the Tetun language which was launched in December 2001.

Note: in 2000, Sally-Anne completed a short Tetun language course run by Timor Aid, based in Dili, Timor Leste.

  • Buibere: Voice of East Timorese Women, vol. 1, 1999 (in English, published); edited and compiled by Sally-Anne Watson [Kane] (under pseudonym ‘Rebecca Winters’). ISBN 0_9577329_3_7. Copyright Rebecca Winters (pseudonym). Self-publishing coordinated by Sally-Anne Watson Kane. Sally-Anne recorded testimonies in Tetun and Portuguese; worked closely with Timorese translators in Timor Leste and Darwin, Australia, to scribe their translation of the testimonies into English; and worked closely with Timorese translators and Australians to edit and produce this English-language publication which was launched in mid-1999. Note: introduction by Bishop Belo who was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • East Timor Interviews Recorded November 1998, 2001 (in English, published); report edited and compiled by Sally-Anne Watson [Kane] (under  pseudonym ‘Rebecca Winters’). Copyright Rebecca Winters. Self-publishing coordinated by Sally-Anne Watson Kane who recorded 11 interviews in Tetun and Portuguese; worked with Timorese translators to scribe their translations of the testimonies into English; and edited this English language publication.
  • Children of the Resistance1996, written by Sally-Anne Watson Kane (under the pseudonyms ‘Rebecca Winters and Brian Kelly’). ISBN 0_646_30388_0. Copyright Rebecca Winters/AFFET; self-publishing assistance and coordination by Matin Goreing, Sally-Anne Watson Kane and AFFET members. Sally-Anne Watson Kane recorded interviews and her experiences over one month travelling in East Timor in 1996 then, based on that information, scribed, wrote and edited this collection of creative non-fiction articles.
Related links

Image: Baucau tais given to Sally-Anne by Joanna Lebre (RIP) in 1996. Hau fo obrigada barak ba Lebre familia iha Dili, liu-liu Senor Pedro Lebre, katak ita nia fen, Joana, fo tais kapas ida ne’e ba hau, iha tempu funu tinan 1996. Tais ne’e sempre hela iha hau nia uma. Many thanks to Pedro Lebre and family in Dili, for this treasured tais which your wife Joana gave me in wartime 1996; it has been in my home ever since. 

Copyright image: Darren Kane.

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