BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor .........home ...... Oct news

"The following is a summary of the information I have been able to obtain by discussions with representatives of several Melbourne councils, the Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) and two regions in New South Wales, concerning their friendship city programs with various towns and districts in Timor Lorosa'e. ... A key principle underlying the friendship relationship is that it should function both ways. ... I would welcome any suggestions as to how we [Canberrans] could initiate the steps necessary to set up a partnership arrangement, either with a specific region or with grassroots organisations in Timor Lorosa'e." (Mrs) Patricia Woodcroft-Lee, Canberra ratepayer [Australia]
See also:

Sep 27 Woodcroft-Lee: Canberra Plans for Sister City Relationship with Dili  Letter
BD: Capacity Building & 'Timorisation' / à Criação de Capacidades
BD: Reconstruction and 'Aid & Development' / Rekonstrusaun i 'Ajuda i Dezenvolvimentu' / Reconstrução e 'Ajuda e Desenvolvimento'

Friendship Cities

Overview of the Development of Relationships between Cities and Districts in Australia and Timor Lorosa'e and a Possible Friendship Relationship for Canberra

Last updated: Feb 7, 2002

Friendship City Programs
Initiation of partnerships
Activities undertaken within the friendship city framework
A partnership model for Canberra?

Friendship City Programs

The following is a summary of the information I have been able to obtain by discussions with representatives of several Melbourne councils, the Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) and two regions in New South Wales, concerning their friendship city programs with various towns and districts in Timor Lorosa'e.

The rationale for the development of friendship city relationships is contained in the Worldwide Declaration of Self Government of the International Union of Local Authorities (IULA), of which the individual councils are members through their membership of State local government associations and the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA).

This declaration supports the concept of local governments cooperating with their counterparts in other countries for the purpose of exchanging information and promoting international understanding.  The importance of partnerships between local governments in development underpins the IULA’s Capacity Building Program and twinning and sister city relationships across the world.

The philosophy of the Victorian friendship City Programs is enshrined in a Statement of Principles for Victorian Local Governments Working in East Timor signed by the presidents of MAV, the Victorian Local Governance Association, the Victorian Minister for Local Government and Xanana Gusmao, then President of the CNRT (National Council of Timorese Resistance) in May 2000.  (Attachment A)

It appears that the task of the Victorian councils in developing the friendship relationships has been made easier by a longstanding support for the Timorese struggle for independence among the general public in Melbourne.  This is due to historical factors that may not be present elsewhere, although there is public support for the Timorese people in Australia generally.  The presence of a CNRT, later National Council, Office in Melbourne and as well as a number of well established activist groups undoubtedly provided the councils with a great deal of support.

A number of the councils have had possible partner towns or districts identified for them by the local representative of the CNRT and have then followed up with community consultations and visits to the area, others have sizeable local East Timorese communities who have been able to provide contacts with their home regions.

It should be noted that even though many of the specific projects are run by community groups, once the friendship city framework is established, councils have had to provide a fair amount of staff time to coordinate the programs and to commit varying amounts of funding to its initiation and promotion.

Although the amount of funding is generally small, the programs could not run without ratepayer support, as council budgets are often already stretched.  Hence the emphasis on community involvement.

The councils vary in the type of projects undertaken.  Some have embarked immediately on programs of material aid, collecting, school and hospital equipment, bikes, tools, etc.  Others are looking at providing advice and some assistance to localities with the types of activities in which councils have some expertise, (eg roads, rates and rubbish).  They are also contemplating on site training in administration and management for local government staff in Timor Lorosa'e.  As yet many of these projects are still in the planning stage.

Although the Victorian councils may have some advantages in setting up these friendship programs, there is no reason why, given public support, the ACT could not undertake a similar initiative.  The ACT government would have undoubted expertise in the areas where assistance is required and there would be a number of community groups who would probably be interested in becoming involved if there was a framework in place to provide a focus to their activities.  Some groups in Canberra are already engaged in fund raising activities for projects in Timor and a number of the Australian overseas aid agencies have branches in Canberra.

Councils in regional Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland are also now undertaking friendship programs.  One of these, the Kangaroo Valley/Remexio partnership will be discussed in greater detail below, as an example of a locally based people to people initiative.

It is also interesting to note that in February 2001 the city council of Madison, Wisconsin, established a sister relationship with Ainaro, becoming the first U.S. sister city of a community in Timor Lorosa'e.  Ainaro, was almost totally destroyed in September 1999.  Support was needed in almost all areas including agricultural cooperatives, health care and education.  Ballarat in Victoria has also established a friendship city relationship with Ainaro.

A key principle underlying the friendship relationship is that it should function both ways.  It is not to be seen simply as a way of channelling aid to needy towns and districts, although small scale people to people aid projects are a major part of the activities of the participating community organisations.  It is expected that, in time there will be cultural exchanges between the Australian cities and their partner cities or districts in Timor Lorosa'e.  The visit of the Anin Murak choir to Kangaroo Valley in November 2000, was an early example of such an exchange.  It is also envisaged that economic ties will eventually be formed although it is recognised that these developments will take some time.

The second half of this paper summarises the initiation and development of some specific programs.

Initiation of partnerships

* Port Phillip-Suai:
Council passed a resolution of support for the people of Timor Lorosa'e during the Timor crisis in September 1999 and gave in principle support to forming a friendship city relationship with an identified town in Timor Lorosa’e.  The local office of the CNRT facilitated contacts with Suai.

A community forum was held to gauge the level of support in the local community.  The results indicated support from a number of sectors of the community and a local steering committee was formed with representatives business, the arts, schools, health centres and various other community groups.

The project is coordinated at the other end by local committees in Suai.

* Moreland/Hume-Aileu:
there was also a groundswell of community support in the area during the Timor crisis and Council participated in a ‘Friends of East Timor’ network.

A working group of Council visited Timor Lorosa’e in April and the Cities of Hume and Moreland signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Province of Aileu to enter into a Friendship City relationship.  (MOU signed by Xanana Gusmau during his visit to Melbourne in May 2000). (Attachment B).  A ‘Friends of Aileu’ Community Committee was established to coordinate activities under the project.

* Darebin Yarra-Baucau:
again there was extensive community support for the councils to become involved.  A college in Darebin established a sister school relationship with a school in Venilale and some of the students visited the area in late 1999.  They delivered a letter from the Mayor of Darebin to the District Administration in Baucau and brought back a letter requesting a working party to visit Baucau.

A community forum was held in to discuss plans for the working party visit and the community’s objectives for a friendship city relationship.

A working party visited Baucau from 28 May to 3 June 2000, and produced a report to Council and also reported to the community at a public meeting in early July.

The City of Yarra which borders Darebin, has a Timorese community of about 1500 people and Council has had considerable involvement in initiatives to support both the local community and to provide emergency assistance in Timor Lorosa’e, following the violence in September 1999.

Yarra Councillor Mr Li Lai, who was born in Timor Lorosa'e, visited Baucau with the Darebin working party in May-June 2000 to assess Yarra’s role in future assistance and to obtain information on local attitudes to the establishment of a Friendship City relationship.

Yarra and Darebin have joined together in a relationship with Baucau. There is a strong community network operating in both Darebin and Yarra which would help promote the Friendship City relationship.

* Casey-Ermera: like Yarra, Casey has a large East Timorese community and Council provided support to the community to help the refugees temporarily housed at Puckapunyal during the September 1999 crisis.

As many Casey residents came originally from the Ermera district, this was a natural choice for a friendship city.

In June 2000, Council decided to enter into discussions with local residents and with the East Timor National Commission for Emergency in Melbourne to promote friendship city links with Ermera.  A friendship city sub-committee has been established for this purpose.

* Mornington Peninsula-Los Palos: unlike the inner Melbourne council areas, Mornington Peninsula does not have a large Timorese community.  The initial contact here was made through a chance encounter in a restaurant between a Mornington resident and Xanana Gusmao, when the latter was visiting Melbourne in October 1999.

This led to discussions between Council members and the then representative of the CNRT in Melbourne as to how the Council could assist in the reconstruction process in Timor.  The town of Los Palos was suggested as an appropriate partner in a friendship city relationship, as its geographical features were somewhat similar to those of Mornington, being in a mountainous coastal region in the eastern part of the island of Timor.

A delegation of councillors visited the area around Los Palos in October 2000 to explore with the local communities the most effective ways for Mornington Peninsula could assist them.

* Ballarat/Ainaro: a group of community organisations such as churches and the Ballarat Branch of the Trades & Labour Council came together to form Ballarat Branch of the Australia/East Timor Association.  The Association encouraged the City l Council to form a friendship city relationship with a town or region in Timor Lorosa'e.  The CNRT representative suggested Ainaro as a partner in the friendship city relationship.

The involvement of the City council was to give official status to that relationship and the Australia/East Timor Association was responsible for cultivating links between the regions.

* Kangaroo Valley/ Remexio: the community of Kangaroo Valley in NSW is something of a special case, in that it is a partnership between two rural districts which is not facilitated through a city or shire council, but is the initiative of a group of local residents.  These residents decided in September 1999 that they wanted to do something help the people of Timor Lorosa'e.

They contacted many Australians who had lived and worked in Timor and through discussion came to the conclusion that they could be most effective by concentrating their effort on helping one particular district.  A friend of one of the residents, who was active in the Timorese resistance movement, recommended the district of Remexio, again because it had some geographic features in common with Kangaroo Valley, being set in a beautiful mountainous region with a comparatively cool climate.

They were also advised by all their contacts, that they needed to visit the country before designing any specific projects.  The first visit by two residents was made in May 2000 and several others followed over the next year.

The Kangaroo Valley initiative is also unique in that it does not function through a community committee, but through a loose network of friends and neighbours.  This cuts down on paper work but may only be possible in a small community.

Activities undertaken within the friendship city framework

* Port Phillip-Suai:
Port Phillip has been heavily involved in the provision of emergency aid, including a 4WD Landcruiser, rice, clothes, bikes, gardening tools and seeds.  Various community groups within Port Phillip have set up their own links with groups in Suai.  These include Rotary and other service clubs, arts groups and schools.  Throughout 2000, funds were raised to ship the donated goods to Suai.  Examples of completed projects are:

- donated Royal Park Hospital medical equipment shipped to Suai in September 2000;

- negotiations completed In October 2000 with RMIT for provision of a teacher of English as a second language for the Suai Learning Centre;

- procedures organised by Council for ratepayers to give $2 donation with their rate payments to help with fund raising.

Fund raising activities by various community groups for specific projects, in areas such as agriculture, education and transport are continuing.

* Moreland/Hume-Aileu:
Moreland has been involved in collecting bikes, seeds, tools, clothing and blankets for Aileu and has a donation facility on the Council Website.

Moreland and Hume have formed a partnership with the aid agency, Australian Volunteers International to support and fund projects in Aileu and to provide tax deductibility.

The Friends of Aileu Community Committee held a very successful Aileu week in the last week of August 2000.  It included fund raising activities and events designed to provide residents with information about Aileu and the friendship city project.

In August 2001 2 banners were sent to the community of Aileu inscribed with best wishes for polling day in both English and Tetum.

A container of goods urgently needed by the community in Aileu, such as include baby clothes, blankets, and basic health supplies, collected by Moreland/Hume residents, is being despatched.  It is also hoped to assist with road making equipment.

Flyers have been distributed to all households in Moreland/Hume, urging residents to make a tax-deductible donation.  It is estimated that if every resident donated one dollar, the city could raise $80.000 for Aileu.

* Darebin/Yarra-Baucau:
following the working party’s visit to Baucau the Council published a brochure (Attachment C) which lists possible projects which might be undertaken and inviting community comment.

There is less emphasis on material aid in Darebin’s activities and a greater focus on training and technology exchange.  Proposals include projects include a Web page for Baucau, (linked to Darebin’s home page), assistance with city planning, training for Baucau City staff, members of women’s groups and unemployed workers, transfer of technology, ie provision of computer hardware and e-mail links and facilitation of contacts between the business sector and trade unions.

In Yarra, Council staff and residents have established a Yarra East Timor Support and Action Group (YETSAG) which meets monthly and is looking for projects of its own, as well as collaborating with Darebin on joint projects. Yarra’s planning is also influenced by the presence of a large local Timorese community and some of its efforts are expected to go to supporting the local community.

Some recent initiatives supported by the two councils have included:

- a shipment of safety clothing for Baucau power workers;
- five computers (donated by the City of Yarra) shipped to Baucau;
- a consignment of sewing machines  (funded by Glenferrie Rotary);
- a corrugated iron roofing factory in Baucau, established by Doncaster Rotary; and
- a continuing project to run a holiday/recreation pilot program for young people in Baucau, for which donations of sporting and art and craft equipment are currently being sought.

* Casey-Ermera: the development of Casey’s friendship city program is also influenced by the presence of a local Timorese Community.  As noted above, residents of Casey had been engaged in assistance to Timorese refugees in September/October 1999 and a project to provide items for rebuilding is also underway.   However, at the time of writing, I have been unable to contact the Council staff responsible, to find details of current projects.

* Mornington Peninsula-Los Palos: following the initial contact there have been further visits by Council members and staff to Los Palos to discuss the needs and priorities of the local community.  As the restoration of agriculture was identified as one of the major priorities of the district, one of Mornington Peninsula’s first projects has been the supply of motorcycles for the use of village representatives to attend planning meetings, share knowledge and coordinate food growing.  Transport is a major concern in the Los Palos region.  Another project is the support of a women’s group which is refurbishing the former Portuguese residence in Tutuala for use as a guesthouse and craft shop.  Crockery for this venture is being supplied by businesses in the Mornington area.

There is also a proposal for a community representative from the Los Palos area to visit Mornington Peninsula to study the role and responsibilities of local government and explore opportunities for future training programs.

* Ballarat/ Ainaro: a successful appeal for goods was held and a container was sent to Timor Lorosa'e in 2000.  A community committee was formed and meets regularly. The Australia/East Timor Association has initiated discussions between the Council and Central Highlands Water to provide training opportunities in the City of Ballarat and various local organisations.  At the time of writing, I understand that these discussions are stalled and the relationship is temporarily on hold.

* Role of the VLGA

The Victorian Local Governance Association, an umbrella body to which most Victorian Councils belong, provides a coordinating role for Councils in the Friendship City Program.  It has run workshops on the implementation of the programs and from time to time publishes a Newsletter Belun Timor Lorosa'e which provides accounts of Council and community projects, visits by council members to their partner communities, etc. Attachment D provides the names of Melbourne councils and their friendship city partners compiled by VLGA as at June 2000.

* Kangaroo Valley NSW – Partnership with Remexio

The Kangaroo Valley partnership has continued to be run on an informal basis, with small groups of residents taking on specific projects.  Tas noted above, there have been a number of visits by Kangaroo Valley residents to Remexio.  Following these visits various items have been donated to assist the rebuilding of villages in the Remexio district, including chainsaws and a four wheel drive vehicle.

Currently sewing machines are being collected and reconditioned by a Shoalhaven business.  A number of young people associated with the Anin Murak choir have been billeted by residents while they study English at colleges in the district.  The residents’ newest project is to establish a musical instrument-making workshop in Dili.  It is hoped that members of an association for the employment of people with disabilities can be involved in the making of instruments, which could provide them with source of income.  Two members of the association are expected to visit Kangaroo Valley in January to discuss the project.

A partnership model for Canberra?

The Kangaroo Valley initiatives could provide an alternative model for people in Canberra who wish to get some kind of partnership up and running.  It requires no formal structures or government support, simply a lot of hard work from some very dedicated individuals and contacts on the ground in Timor who can suggest possible project to follow up.  Under this model, the projects would probably need to be small scale and probably labour rather capital intensive.  Such schemes generate much good will and often result in the building of friendships between individuals.

Of course, given the size of Canberra and the amount of infrastructure and expertise in city management here, any support from the ACT Government would give resident groups access to a greater range of opportunities to support a partner community.  For example, we could offer training in waste management, recycling, land care etc.  There could also be the possibility of public enterprises donating equipment, as has happened in some of the Melbourne cases.

I would welcome any suggestions as to how we could initiate the steps necessary to set up a partnership arrangement, either with a specific region or with grassroots organisations in Timor Lorosa'e.  I believe the interest is here and that we as citizens of Canberra would, in the long run, find it a mutually rewarding exercise.

(Mrs) Patricia Woodcroft-Lee
Phone: (02) 6254 1671

See also:

Sep 27 Woodcroft-Lee: Canberra Plans for Sister City Relationship with Dili  Letter added Oct 11
" ... the Chief Minister, Mr Gary Humphries has made a commitment that the Liberal party, if elected, will inaugurate a sister city relationship with Dili, the soon to be capital of the independent republic of Timor Lorosa'e. Many residents of the ACT will welcome this commitment, as there is much goodwill here toward the people of Timor and a desire to assist in the rebuilding of the country.  ... A model of cooperation which may better fit the current circumstances is the Friendship City Program ... It is essentially a series of grass roots people to people initiatives, for which the city or shire council provides an administrative framework and contributes its expertise in areas such as urban planning and services." (Mrs) Patricia Woodcroft-Lee, Canberra ratepayer [Australia]

BD: Capacity Building & 'Timorisation' / à Criação de Capacidades - A collection of recent statements, reports, articles and news

BD: Reconstruction and 'Aid & Development' / Rekonstrusaun i 'Ajuda i Dezenvolvimentu' / Reconstrução e 'Ajuda e Desenvolvimento' - A collection of recent press releases, reports, and articles

BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor .........home ...... Oct news
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