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Dancers on the Sea

By Gabrielle Samson - ISBN: 9781923101067

RRP: $36.95

Dancers on the Sea
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Author Bio

Gabrielle, an Australian, spent twelve years on East Timor’s remote Ataúro Island living and working with the island community. Dancers on the Sea is about the six years prior to Timor-Leste's independence in 2002. Gabrielle, a writer of fiction and non-fiction, lives on a nature refuge in southern Queensland and still regularly visits the island and people she loves. She writes – mainly short stories – to express and share her wonder and appreciation of people and their cultures. Gabrielle has won prizes for her stories, speaks four languages, has degrees in Anthropology and Education and has worked in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Timor-Leste.

Dancers on the Sea

By Gabrielle Samson - ISBN: 9781923101067

RRP: $36.95

This story tells of a woman’s life and work on Ataúro Island, learning the island's history and culture, and shares stories of others with whom she lived in a time of great change...

During a period when East Timor was occupied by a harsh Indonesian military regime and a fierce resistance movement challenged it, Gabrielle – an Australian woman working at an Indonesian university – was asked by a Timorese village leader to help establish a kindergarten for the community.

Supported by the university, Gabrielle agreed to spend six months on the remote and poor island, to live amongst them as the only Westerner in its harsh and often cruel conditions.

It didn’t take long for Gabrielle to fall in love with the island, its people and an Indonesian co-worker, resulting in the following twelve years of her life being spent living on the island amongst an amazing community of people.

Dancers on the Sea is Gabrielle’s experience through six of those years as the little country struggled for, and achieved, its independence.

“A moving and insightful book of reality and compassion. Beautifully told and deeply shared…” Lisa, Readalot Magazine reviewer


Azyu is an Ataúro Island man. Born in Maumeta-Vila in 1985 he attended the village primary school but was always more interested in drawing than in school studies. Azyu was ‘in and out’ of school but, when he could get hold of art materials, was consistently passionate about drawing.

In 1996 Gabrielle formed a small art group in Vila to provide pencils, paper and encouragement to Azyu and two or three other boys. For a time he studied natural sciences at the island high school but his interest was always diverted to his art. In 2009 he attended the Arte Moris art school in Dili where he developed his skills further and eventually became a tutor for younger Timorese artists. Azyu now lives between his island home of Ataúro and Dili where he has artist friends.


2024 QLD Literary Award Dancers of the Sea

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture.

We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

Industry Member of

Australian Publishers Association SPN