Our Committee

The Geelong-Viqueque Friendship Schools values diversity and inclusivity. As a result, our Committee reflects the broader Geelong community. Teachers, school principals, education support, medical professionals, university students and community members all play a vital role in our organisation.



Peter Cannon

Retired Secondary School Principal

Peter spent all of his working life in schools and thus it is not surprising that in retirement he continues with supporting young people both in Timor-Leste and Geelong. Peter was one of the GVFS founding members in 2007. He along with his wife Tricia have made 12 trips to Viqueque establishing lasting friendships. He has been inspired by the words of World War II hero Paddy Keneally, “We went to their country and we brought nothing but misery down on those people. They sacrificed their lives to prevent the Japanese invading Australia and we deserted them”. It’s time to repay the debt. 


David Whelan

Retired Secondary School Principal

David’s first visit to Timor Leste was part of an extended trip that left him with a desire to support the connection established between the Geelong schools and the schools of Viqueque. As the retired Principal of Geelong High, David escorted both staff and students to Timor-Leste where they were able to establish a connection with their sister school Mondo Perdido. David is also planning return trips to Timor-Leste to see old and new friends.


Julie Whelan GVFS Secretary

Julie Whelan

Retired Secondary School Teacher

Julie first visited Timor-Leste in 2011 along with a cohort of other Geelong teachers with the aim of strengthening the relationship between partner schools. At the time, Julie was an Assistant Principal at Clonard College. With the support of the Principal and other staff, particularly Penny Dewar and Carmel Brown, Julie developed a program for year 11 students interested in visiting their sister school and getting to know a close neighbour. Several visits followed Julie’s initial visit and as she is recently retired, Julie and her husband David intend to return often Timor-Leste.



Graham Barton

Teacher- Christian College

Graham’s first trip to Timor was in 2012 as part of a tradie trip with Christian College where he is a teacher. He remembers wanting to do so much in that trip until someone told him “being here is enough”. It was through this conversation Graham realised that this would not be his only trip to Timor-Leste. With further trips in 2013; to help run sessions at a teacher conference; a family trip in 2014 with his wife Kirsten, 11-year-old daughter Emma and 9-year-old son Zach; and a student’s trip in September 2014. Graham’s passion for helping the locals and maintaining friendships was entrenched.

Graham now has a role as Christian College’s Timor Liaison officer, which has led to two further teacher conference trips and two student prefect trips in 2018 and 2019.There is still much to do in the education of Timor-Leste’s young generations. This will be achieved through continued sponsorship of primary, secondary and tertiary students and Christian College’s Uma Maun Alin, a friendship house that employs teachers, IT specialists, and runs many programs for the community.


Tricia Blane

Retired Teacher

Tricia is one of the Geelong-Viqueque Friendship Schools dedicated founders. Tricia was raised with a strong commitment to social justice and awareness of the important role education contributes to personal development and nation building.

As a former school teacher and mother of five, Tricia finds her involvement with Geelong-Viqueque Friendship Schools and the Timorese people a very rewarding experience. Tricia has a wealth of knowledge and personal experience that is greatly valued by both the Geelong-Viqueque Friendship Schools  community and greater Geelong community.


Carmel Brown

Secondary Teacher – Clonard College



Jonathon Chapman

Jonathon Chapman

Secondary Maths & Physics Teacher  -Kardinia International College

Jonathan has been inspired by Timor-Leste’s story for many years, so when the opportunity came to become involved he ran with it. He has had a long professional life in education in many forms and has few doubts about its transformative and positive effects on communities at all levels.

Jonathan is a Mathematics and Physics teacher and House Coordinator at Kardinia International College. He has lead the annual school visit with groups of year 11 students to Kardinia’s sister school in Viqueque, Cabira Oan and aims to strengthen the relationship between the two communities with every return visit.


Chris Clark

Chris Clark

Retired Primary School Teacher



Fran Dorgan

Former Teacher



Patrice Hall

Midwife-Barwon Health

Patrice is a nurse/midwife and educator at Barwon Health and a founding member of the Geelong Viqueque Friendship Schools group. Her first visit to East Timor and Viqueque was made in 2005 with a working party from Christian College and since then she has become a regular visitor.

She initiated the GVFS school day forum involving Geelong students in learning more about the culture, history and story of East Timor, one of our nearest neighbours. This has become an annual event. Patrice sees the GVFS playing an important role in connecting the two communities and improving the future for the students linked with the project in Viqueque as well as enriching the lives of the Geelong students who have visited Viqueque and East Timor.


Chris Hansen

Deputy Principal-Christ the King Primary School Newcomb



Olivia Jackson-Corbeil

Integration Aide

Olivia’s connection with Timor-Leste began as a secondary student. Olivia was fortunate enough to have been selected to visit Viqueque as part of her secondary school’s first ever Timor-Leste trip. Shortly afterwards, Olivia was kindly given the chance visit Timor-Leste a second time with committee members David and Julie Whelan. Olivia greatly valued her experiences in Timor-Leste. As someone who is mindful of the dangers of ‘voluntourism’ or ‘unskilled volunteering’, Olivia was grateful to be given opportunities to remain involved with the Geelong-Viqueque Friendship Schools projects in the years that followed. An organisation that has committed to longterm, meaningful community partnerships. Olivia has a background in swim teaching/swim school administration and is currently working in education support. 


Julie Whelan GVFS Secretary

Louise Madden



Heather Wallace

Midwife, Seasonal Academic-Deakin University

Heather was first introduced to Timor-Leste when she joined fellow committee member Patrice Hall on a trip to Viqueque in 2011. This trip prompted Heather to return to university where she undertook a masters degree and PhD focusing on reproductive and maternal health in Timor-Leste.

She has visited Timor-Leste many times and is always inspired by the resilient, generous, welcoming and friendly people she meets. Being a part of GVFS gives her another avenue to remain involved and in touch with Timor-Leste. Geelong-Viqueque Friendship Schools are very happy to welcome Heather to the team.

GVFS Projects

Mariano Da’Silva

GVFS Project Officer, Tetun Teacher- Viqueque 01 

As the Geelong Viqueque Friendship Schools Project Officer, Mariano DaSilva brings sustained enthusiasm, commitment and integrity which has enabled the Geelong Viqueque Friendship Schools to achieve many of its goals. Mariano’s welcoming smile is absolutely infectious and consequently all Geelong visitors immediately feel at ease upon their arrival in Viqueque.  Mariano is a teacher at 01 Viqueque. Mariano came to visit Geelong in 2011 with three Viqueque principals and three teachers for a 21 day educational program funded by the Timor-Leste Ministry of Education.  He is married to Paulina who is a teacher of English and together they have five children.

Mariano, like many Timorese, has experienced many hardships as Timor-Leste developed into an independent Nation. Mariano’s father was also one of the many Timorese who supported Australian soldiers during WW2. Tragically, his two brothers were killed by the Japanese. Thanks to Mariano’s hard work and dedication, the students of Viqueque 01 are motivated to study hard in order to better themselves and their community.  

Life Member

Deb Singleton

Former Secondary Teacher-Christian College

An inspirational person who has touched the lives of so many people. Deb, a kind, generous humble and gentle soul will remain forever in our hearts. The Geelong-Viqueque Friendship Schools are forever grateful for Deb’s dedication and commitment to her beloved friends in Viqueque, Timor-Leste.



Friends of the Geelong-Viqueque Friendship Schools

Many dedicated individuals and past committee members have greatly supported and shaped the Geelong-Viqueque Friendship Schools Inc. since its establishment in 2007. Their time and contributions will always be valued by both the GVFS community and all partnered Viqueque schools.


Thank you-

    Richard Barlow: Committee member

    Rob Blackley: Committee member

    Tom Bennett: Committee member

    Will Birket: Committee member

    Gail Butler: Major donor 

    John Butler: Major donor

    Liz Coles: Committee member

    Brian Edward: Committee member

    Rosie Friend: Committee member

    Rick Gower: Committee member

    Farah Golmakani: Mount Design Agency- Website consultancy 

    Kay Howell: Committee member

    Sophie McIntosh: Committee member

    Rosemary Nugent: Committee member

    Michael O’Donnell: Committee member, Website design and management

    Astrid Paape: Committee member

    James Palmer: Committee member

    Reagan Purdy: Committee member

    Rachel Roche: Committee member

    Kristen Rowan: Committee member

    Janet Taylor: Committee member

    Michael Wright: Committee member

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