Last year, the film Balibo reignited public awareness of the five journalists murdered in East Timor in 1975.
In December, as the Australian Federal Police investigated the Balibo Five killings in a war crimes probe, Shirley Shackleton, widow of Channel Seven reporter Greg Shackleton, told Crikey readers how Indonesia was still muddying the waters about what had happened more than 30 years before.
Now Shackleton has told her side of the Balibo story in an engaging, funny, gutsy and often heart-rending memoir.
Hers is an extraordinary life: from public relations career woman to motherhood, and then, following the loss of her husband, nearly 35 years of activism.
While The Circle of Silence (Pier 9, $34.95) is a personal memoir, it tells little of Shirley Shackleton’s private life after the first 80 pages. On page 81, Greg Shackleton dies. Or maybe that’s the point: after her husband’s death, her fight for justice was her life.
It’s a moving tale of grief, anger, determination and courage, as Shackleton uses her PR nous to campaign internationally, which included some hair-raising visits to East Timor.
As time passed, Shackleton’s activism extended beyond the journalists’ fate to protesting against Indonesia’s treatment of the East Timorese (the book includes grisly details of torture and rape), and trying to stir successive Australian governments to action.
The Circle of Silence should also have a long life on media, history and politics shelves — it’s also just a great read.