Author Archives: wbirkett

Student Day Success!

On Monday 7th August 40 primary students from 6 Geelong schools attended a student day about Timor Leste, in particular our region of Viqueque.

This day was hosted by Christ the King School in Newcomb. The workshops were run by senior students from Christian College and St Ignatius College, who have visited Viqueque this year.

Many students learnt a Timorese song accompanied by the guitar. They did not imagine they could sing a song in another language in half an hour!!

“The Boy and the Crocodile” story was also very popular. The students could see the shape of the country really did resemble the shape of a crocodile. The crocodile finger puppets were a big hit.

The students were also very interested in the experiences of the senior students who have recently visited the country. They were amazed at some of the living and school conditions in Viqueque and the differences to our lifestyles.

Some students were able to write a postcard to a student in Viqueque. They told of their school and family Students were also able to make a collage of pictures from Christian College calendars depicting the life and people in Viqueque.

Overall, it was a very interesting day for the Primary students who mixed well with their fellow students from schools with an interest in supporting the less fortunate students in our sister schools of Viqueque. We need to keep the interest of these young people as they progress to secondary schools.

Student day 17 1

Making Connections: Clonard Students Visit Timor

Report by Olivia Hurley and Nikita Bone (Clonard College students)

When we exited the plane our bodies were over-whelmed by the blazing heat and never-ending humidity. The climate along the coastline and the inland villages varied throughout the day but was prominently hot. Dili’s heat was long-lasting, humid and consistent throughout the night, juxtaposing the cooler evenings, foggier mornings and wetter conditions in the rural villages, like Viqueque and Venilale. Our bodies quickly adapted to the clear skies and ever present sun. We saw many startling images as we walked along the streets of Dili, Bacau, Venilale and Viqueque. There were markets, dogs, chickens, microlets, monkeys, ruins and religious icons, and always children ready to say hello. The drive from Dili to Beloi was a beautiful, coastal drive along a treacherous, dirt road that we called “The Great Ocean Track”. This road is currently being upgraded by the Timor Leste government and will no doubt become a future tourist attraction. The views of open water, mountain ranges and small villages were unforgettable and unique. The extensive mountain ranges and plateau were covered by trees and beautiful forest. There was a diverse variety of fruit trees which prompted our desire to buy the tropical, organic fruits for sale in the small fruit markets throughout the cities and villages. Overall despite our undeniable shock and the overwhelming effects heat and the unfamiliarity of the environment, the girls all grew a definite connection to and appreciation for the diverse and unique physical environment that we will never forget.

We learnt that amidst prevalent poverty in the aftermath of wartime, culture stands out in Timor-Leste as something vibrant and precious. As the country is so extremely different to the Australian context that we were familiar with, it was easy for us as first time visitors to become overwhelmed by the aspects of Timorese life that we viewed as cultural. However, through our burgeoning knowledge of the history of Timor-Leste and our visits to community organisations such as Afalyca, we began to realise that the relationship between the Timorese people and their culture is complex, and that this relationship has been severed and reshaped at various points within the country’s tumultuous past. Timor-Leste has been colonised by the Portuguese and invaded by the Indonesians. The presence of these nations on the island led to new and diverse concepts being intoduced into Timorese culture. For example the Portuguese introduction of Catholicism that would eventually consume the religious preferences of almost the entire population. Prior to this Timor-Leste already had its own traditions. The surviving imprint of these traditions was evidenced by the sacred houses, or ‘Uma-Lulik,’ that our Timorese guide Joni led us to in the mountain community of Venilale. Also in Venilale, a visit to the secluded home of a local family allowed us to witness the traditional process of tais weaving, and how this skill that is central to Timorese culture is transferred from generation to generation of Timorese women. In many ways, the tais are symbolic of the culture of Timor-Leste. The intricate process of weaving the tais is a product of original Timorese tradition, and as it is taught to young women by their mothers and grandmothers, the culture is absorbed into a new generation. Then the distribution of these tais, woven with Timorese cotton in bright colours and decorated with representations of the sacred Uma-Lulik, to locals and visitors alike also disperses a bold cultural presence throughout the nation. The fact that preserving the connection between the people of Timor-Leste and their traditional culture is vital, particularly after a war that threatened to destroy it, was further demonstrated to us by our visit to the Afalyca Community Centre in Baucau. Afalyca is a community initiative that aims to revive and sustain an intimate relationship between people and tradition in Timor-Leste by educating children about their cultural roots. Watching, and accompanying, the children at Afalyca as they danced and sang, adorned with dresses fashioned from their cherished tais, exposed us to the sense of almost triumphant joy that is unearthed when culture is maintained in Timor-Leste.

We also learnt the Timorese take pride in learning, always wanting to further their education and knowledge. This thirst to learn is obvious everywhere we visited but particularly in the smaller districts such as Viqueque and Licecia. As obvious ‘malays’ we would be stopped in some of the most random places such as churches and restaurants by locals wanting to broaden their horizons through speaking English. The Timorese’s passion for school is very much apparent in the younger generations. Whilst visiting various schools across the country the students would always introduce themselves by their name, goal and hobby, to all of which most would answer either becoming a doctor or journalist in the future and their favourite hobby is to study. Their drive and determination regarding school was inspirational and somewhat shocked us. It made us realise the strength of their desire to better themselves, their family and their community through education and how important learning facilities are to them. The values the Timorese have embedded in their people regarding education and learning will forever impact the way we view school, and the opportunities we receive as a result of western privilege.

The many bonds between Australia and Timor Leste will continue to be strengthened as students such as ourselves have the wonderful opportunity to visit this amazing country.

Clonard 17_photo

Geelong Celebrates Timor-Leste Independence

During May, the City of Greater Geelong marked the 15th anniversary of East Timor’s Independence with a flag ceremony at City Hall. Approximately 60 people were in attendance, which included representatives from Geelong Friends of Viqueque, Geelong Friendship Health Inc and Geelong Viqueque Friendship Schools Inc.

Robyn Stevens, Manager Connected Communities emceed the event. Ms Stevens highlighted that the ceremony was a symbolic recognition of the connection between the people of Geelong and those of the District of Viqueque in East Timor.

“The local community has helped raise funds for the District of Viqueque, with the funds going towards the development of essential education and health services, including training teachers and nurses, and building and upgrading schools.

The flag ceremony was preceded by a student session, which included an excellent presentation by Christian College Year 12 Prefects Montana Jones, Millie Lowe, Cian Foster and Ronen Jafari who shared their learnings from their visits to East Timor.

Senior Sergeant Mark Lee from Victoria Police gave a heartfelt presentation on his work in East Timor as part of the first UN Police Force (INTERFET).

Sister Maria Moniz, who is the Principal of the Canossia Girls College in Baucau East Timor, and a guest of Sacred Heart College Geelong, read the Poem for Independence Day by Xanana Gusmao.

Christian Coll

Photo: SSgt Lee (right) with students from Christian College Geelong

Newsletter bumper edition

The latest edition of our newsletter has been released!

It includes a report from our President’s recent visit to Timor Leste and details of an upcoming fundraiser.

Click here to read

Time to Draw the Line

Want to know more about the long-running maritime boundary dispute between East Timor and Australia. Come along to a movie night held by Geelong Viqueque Friendship Schools.

The  screening of ‘Time to Draw the Line’  will be on  31 July at 8:30 at the Pivotonian Cinema, Geelong.

 Tickets are available by clicking here.


Record Numbers!

On Sunday afternoon 23rd April at 01 Viqueque, almost all of the 2017 scholarship holders were presented with certificates and money. A number of parents were present and two of the school principals. Mariano’s meticulous organisation resulted in a most impressive ceremony. There are 73 recipients for 2017 including those directly funded by Sacred Heart College and Geelong High School, with a total outlay of $US 8,000

All Geelong partner secondary and pre secondary schools were represented:

Secondary:           Calixa 9, 4 Septembro 12, St Esteavo 7 and Olocasa 8,

Pre-Secondary:   01 Viqueque 13, Cabira 4, St Teresinha 10 and Mundo Perdido 10.





Upcoming trivia night fundraiser

A second ‘library books for Timor Leste trivia night’ will be conducted on: Saturday 23rd March 2013 at Geelong West Town Hall
153 Pakingdon Street, Geelong West

It will be a fun night with great prizes, silent auctions and main auctions
Brian Nankervis of SBS’s ROCKWIZ will perform MC and host duties
Tickets $35, BYO plate and drinks
See below for more info:

Trivia night fundraiser 2013