A Murdoch University Journalism student has taken out a major prize for his work.
Alex Soares received the Most Outstanding Journalism Student prize at the 2011 WA Media Awards for a series of profile feature articles and a photoessay documenting the struggles of East Timorese freedom fighters.
Mr Soares spent two months in East Timor (Timor Leste) photographing and interviewing former guerrilla fighters who helped the tiny island nation gain independence from Indonesia in 1999.
Judges singled Mr Soares’ work out, saying it “showed great initiative and sensitivity in handling complex issues”.
“Alex Soares clearly has strong family and cultural links with East Timor but he still demonstrated great perseverance in researching and interviewing his subject, an East Timorese freedom fighter who was telling his story for the first time,” they said.
For Mr Soares, the honour came as a great shock.
“I would like to dedicate this award to the veterans who so kindly invited me into their homes, into their lives, and in some cases, into their family,” he said.
“I would also like to thank the ordinary people of Timor, who much like the freedom fighters, sacrificed and suffered unimaginably for Timor's independence.”
Mr Soares said he found travelling to East Timor and immersing himself in the history of the island inspiring.
“The prospect of learning about different cultures, different ways of viewing the world, and discovering new places, tastes and smells along the way however, is what I live for,” he said.
Mr Soares is already back in East Timor, partly to continue working with the same veterans he interviewed last year, but also to investigate a number of other issues.
“In time, perhaps once I speak the lingua franca fluently, I would love to write a comprehensive book chronicling the remarkable lives of some of Timor Leste's war heroes,” he said.