David and Goliath battle in the Timor Sea

Date & time

5–6pm Tuesday 6 December 2016


Phillipa Weeks Staff Library

ANU College of Law, 5 Fellows Road, The Australian National University


Janelle Saffin


For interstate visitors, we offer suggestions for accommodation near ANU.


Nicole Harman

Presented by Centre for International & PUblic Law, and the International Law Association

Janelle Saffin

Despite being close neighbours with deep personal friendships, few Australians know of the David and Goliath battle between Australia and Timor-Leste in the Timor Sea. Timor-Leste seek to mark maritime boundaries with Australia based on the equidistant approach (median line) completing as they say, their sovereignty. Australia withdrew from the judicial umpires on the dawn of Timor-Leste’s independence (2002), for the specific purpose of marking maritime boundaries.

This seminar will map the carve up of the Timor Sea starting with Australia’s stated 1953 continental shelf position, to their unilateral granting of exploration licences in 1962, 1963, the continued carve up of the Timor Sea with Indonesia, culminating in the 1989 Timor Gap Treaty based on Indonesia’s illegal occupation of Timor-Leste, to the more recent developments including the Timor Sea Treaty arbitration (arising from allegations of Australia spying) , the ICJ Case on seized documents and data, and the current UNCLOS Compulsory Conciliation. It will finish with the oft asked questions, “Why did Australia withdraw from judicial umpires,” and “Why doesn’t Australia agree to negotiate maritime boundaries with Timor-Leste when it has done so with the other five neighbours with whom it shares maritime sea?”


  • Janelle Saffin »

    Janelle has a law practice in her home town in country NSW Australia.  With legal and education qualifications she combines this work with community engagement projects. Janelle’s connection with Timor-Leste spans over three decades, including advocacy for their independence struggle, and since 1999 support and advocacy for state building and development.  The advocacy continues supporting their struggle to mark their maritime boundaries, the last step in securing their sovereignty.

    She received the special Australian Government Prime Minister’s East Timor award for voluntary services to East Timor, and was awarded the Order of Timor-Leste for her advocacy for the people of Timor-Leste. In her term in the NSW Legislative Council (1995-2003), she seized the opportunity to advance the cause of the East Timorese, gaining strong support across the political spectrum; also establishing and becoming Chief Adviser to the East Timor NSW Government Taskforce. This cross party support continued in the Federal Parliament when Janelle served as the Federal Member for Page (2007-2013), and chaired the Australia-Timor-Leste Parliament Friendship Group.


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