Subject: Bega Friendship agreement with Timor-Leste

Bega District News

Friendship agreement with Timor-Leste Friday, 5 November 2004

CEREMONIES with music and dancing were held at Natarbora to greet the recent delegation from the Bega Valley Advocates for Timor-Leste (East Timor), led by the mayor, Cr David Hede.

Cr Hede, Mrs Sharon Champagne and Mr Don McPhee were the second group of Advocates to go to Timor-Leste and, on the their first day in Dili, they met up with the first pair, Mr Jim Collins and Mr Bernard Taylor, as well as Mrs Penny Davies who had been there for two months.

On their first night they dined with the Assistant Minister for Territories who was very interested in finding out how local government works in Australia.

Timor-Leste has no local government and its aim in the short to medium term is to establish a form based on Australian and New Zealand as models.

While in Dili and the district the group visited the Australian War Memorial and the hills near Dili where 60,000 sheltered during the vote for independence, the children creeping back to Dili at night to steal food - a distance of 10 kilometres.

There was an old hospital there which did not appear to have any structural damage but, without money for equipment, it was empty.

The delegates bought soccer balls and pumps to inflate them while in Dili and gave them as gifts to the schools they visited in Natarbora.

Leaving Dili, Cr Hede, Mrs Champagne, Mr McPhee and Ms Davies were accompanied by the consul-general to Australia, Mr Abel Gutterres and his assistant Mr Julio de Coda de Freitas, to Manatuto, where they received an official welcome from Mr Elvino Bonaparte do Rogo, the district administrator.

Along with an impressive police escort, the delegation and the district administrator travelled to Natarbora.

The local police joined the police from Manatuto and so 14 of the force were with the delegation as it was greeted by more than 200 people and the sub-district administrator, Mr Rui Gomes.

It was Mr Gomes and Mr Bonaparte do Rogo who, with Cr Hede, signed the friendship agreement which read:

In the spirit of mutual respect and co-operation between the citizens of Australia and the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, we affirm our intention to develop a Friendship Relationship between the Sub-district of Barique-Natarbora in Timor-Leste and the Bega Valley Shire Council (State of New South Wales) in Australia.

The Bega Valley Shire Council recognises the desire of many Australians to contribute to the rebuilding of Timor-Leste and learn more about their neighbouring country.

In forming a relationship with the Sub-district of Barique-Natarbora, the council acknowledges the decentralisation priority of the Timor-Leste Government and the needs of more remote areas of the country.

It is intended that this partnership will be at both the Local Government and community levels and will result in an improved understanding and appreciation of the cultures and experiences of the communities of Barique-Natarbora and the Bega Valley.

It is intended that all initiatives undertaken under the Friendship Relationship will aim to build capacity and advance and promote the self-sufficiency of the people of Barique-Natarbora.

All initiatives will be exercised in a manner that is consistent with and actively promotes the principles of cultural and religious diversity, gender equity and ecological sustainability.

It is understood that any project will take into account the National Development Plan and District Development Plan for the Barique-Natarbora District as well as other priorities identified through local decision-making processes.

Decision-making under the Friendship Relationship will be open, transparent and accountable.

It is acknowledged that the Friendship Relationship between the District of Barique-Natarbora and the Bega Valley Shire Council is long-term, and may be reviewed and reaffirmed by the administrations which follow those currently responsible.

At all the ceremonies, including the formal friendship relationship signing ceremony, the delegation was presented with coloured scarves (tais) and there was singing and dancing.

Over the couple of days in Natarbora, many schools were visited and the Australians presented their soccer balls, pencils and the shire schools' book while the children sang, danced and played footy with the mayor.

The agricultural college and its grounds were toured and the delegation saw the devastation that occurred when the Indonesians moved out and the appalling conditions that the students lived in.

They returned at night when there were 700 to 800 people gathered and were formally welcomed by a musical group of self-taught and self-motivated students.

On leaving Natarbora the delegation visited the Australian Rotary galvanised iron rolling mill.

Back in Dili they met the Minister for Health who thanked the people of the Bega Valley Shire for the hospitality they had shown Manuela Pereira, his personal assistant.

The Minister also spoke of Timor-Leste's needs and priorities, specifically in the area of education and health.

Cr Hede said that visiting Natarbora had given him and the other delegates an opportunity to see at first hand the people, the schools, the health clinic and the agricultural college and to be able to return to Australia and work out with the Bega Valley Advocates on what can be done and when to help.


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