Paddy & ATLAS

Our Inspiration

Paddy and Rufino © Jon Lewis (used with permission)

The Story of Paddy

ATLAS was founded in memory of John Patrick (Paddy) Kenneally who fought tirelessly for the people of Timor Leste and for their nation’s independence. 

Paddy was born in 1916 in Ireland, and in 1927 at age 11, immigrated to Australia with his mother and siblings to re‑join his father, who had left Ireland to escape “the troubles” and find stable work to support his family.

Australian 2/2nd Independent Company

Paddy found work in Sydney as a wharfie but in December 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour he immediately joined up to fight for Australia. With little training he found himself on the way to Dili in Portuguese Timor to join the 2/2nd commandos’ guerrilla unit – the first ever commando unit in the Australian Army. Its sole purpose was to protect Australia from an invasion by the Japanese and lead a disruptive campaign to slow the Japanese advance. Apart from some initial skirmishes the unit suffered few casualties. 

The success of the 2/2nd was in no doubt due to the support of the local Timorese who sheltered, fed, and cared for them whilst risking their own lives. However, the unit was withdrawn from Timor as there was little chance of defeating the almost 20,000 Japanese who had been progressively inserted because of the Australians’ success. The Timorese “criados” (Timorese men and boys some aged as young as 10 years old) who helped the Australians were left behind. When the unit withdrew the RAAF dropped leaflets from the Australian government saying, “Your friends do not forget you”. 

A Tireless Campaigner

In 1975 the Timorese declared independence from Portugal only to be invaded by Indonesia nine days later, on 7 December. During the invasion and subsequent 24 year occupation Australian governments supported Indonesia.  Many Australians became involved in a campaign to free the East Timorese from a new colonial power. Paddy visited Timor-Leste four times during its struggle for independence. 

In 2005 he again rallied support to pressure the Australian government to secure a fair deal for the Timorese over their rights to resources in the Timor Sea. He fought tenaciously to ensure that the profits were properly shared. 

Creation of ATLAS

Throughout his life Paddy was a tireless campaigner for the people of Timor and ATLAS was created to carry on the charitable work that Paddy started.