About us

The Geelong-Viqueque Friendship Schools Inc.

Geelong-Viqueque Friendship Schools Inc. A0051409J is a registered charity based in Geelong, Victoria that has been operating for over 10 years. The focus of our activities is to improve educational opportunities for the over 4,000 students living in the district of Viqueque, Timor Leste.

We also aim to create friendships across borders and enhance the awareness and appreciation of different cultures amongst young people, both in Timor Leste and Australia, as well as to help young people develop a sense of social responsibility and connectedness with the larger world.

The group meets monthly to initiate new ways of supporting the people of Viqueque and in sustaining and coordinating existing projects within the district. At the heart of our work has been the establishment of a partnership between Geelong and Viqueque schools. Currently 13 State, Catholic and Independent schools have paired with 13 schools within the district of Viqueque in Timor Leste.

2014 has seen the implementation phase of a Literacy Project in Viqueque using funds from the Butler Donation, a most generous gift of $120,000 from John and Gael Butler.

The Language Project has a significant focus on the professional development of teachers. The implementation of this professional development has been undertaken in collaboration with two Timor Leste training providers, Mary MacKillop International Literacy Team and The Learning Resource Development Centre. Both providers are staffed by qualified Timorese teachers, who act as excellent role models for local Viqueque teachers.

Anther project being supported by Geelong Viqueque Friendships Schools (GVFS) is the Continuing Education Scholarships for students who would otherwise struggle to continue their secondary or tertiary education. The students undertaking tertiary studies are either studying at the Bacau Teachers’ College or the Fatumaca Technical College. In 2014 the Geelong Viqueque Friendship Schools has allocated $13,400 to support 27 young people to continue with their studies.

In addition the GVFS supports our 13 partner schools with Viqueque with gifts of teaching, sporting and recreational materials that enhance the programs offered by those schools. In 2014 $7,000 was spent on furniture, English/Tetun word finders, sporting gear, Tetun story books, stationery and staff lockers. Funds were also allocated to a joint community and school garden at Ossu. This funding also included a week’s training in Dili, conducted by NIAM Health.

Each year we also distribute many other items, such laptops and classroom furniture, which has been donated by Geelong and Melbourne schools.

In 2012 the Geelong Viqueque Friendships Schools (GVFS) organised a Geelong based professional development program for Principals and English teachers, in conjunction with the Timor Leste Ministry of Education. This program saw ten Timorese educators spend three week in Geelong undertaking a mix of instruction and practical placements within Geelong schools..

Our committee

Our Committee reflects the broader Geelong community and includes teachers, former school principals, medical professionals, university students and of course parents and interested community members.

President Peter Cannon Retired Secondary School Principal
Vice-President David Whelan Retired Secondary School Principal
Secretary Julie Whelan Secondary Teacher, Clonard College
Treasurer Tricia Blane Retired Teacher
Committee (in alphabetical order)
Will Birkett Doctor, Monash Health
Jonathon Chapman Secondary Teacher, Kardinia International College
Chris Clark Retired Primary School Teacher
Patrice Hall Midwife, Barwon Health
Chris Hansen Deputy Principal, Christ the King PS, Newcomb
Olivia Jackson-Corbeil Integration Aid
Deb Singleton Secondary Teacher, Christian College Geelong
Janet Taylor Secondary Teacher, Geelong Grammar School
Michael Wright Secondary Teacher, St Ignatius College

The Geelong-Viqueque Friendship Schools had its origins in July 2006 when Patrice Hall, Rosemary Nugent, Liz Coles and Peter Cannon met as a small working group of the Geelong Catholic Social Justice committee. Subsequently the group expanded drawing new members from across the Geelong community.

The committee was committed to improving the quality of education in the District of Viqueque in Timor Leste and to encourage Geelong schools to include the study of Timor Leste in their curriculum.

During this period a number of Geelong schools, principally those that were members of Australia East Timor Friendship Schools were approached to consider becoming part of the Geelong-Viqueque Friendship Schools and to join with partner schools in Viqueque. From this small beginning the group now includes 13 local schools and involves a large numbers of community members.

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