Subject: Bega welcomes Timor Minister

Bega District News

Bega welcomes Timor Minister Friday, 24 June 2005

THE Timor-Leste Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Mr Estanislau Da Silva, spoke movingly of the plight of many in his country at a civic reception in Bega on Wednesday night.

He said he and his countrymen had a lot to do in the years to come and he appreciated the help being given by the people of the Bega Valley.

Mr Da Silva said Timor-Leste's economy was still very dependent on agriculture with 80 per cent of the people agricultural workers.

He said 56 per cent of Timorese were illiterate and 50 per cent were under 25 years of age.

The young people's education had been interrupted by the fight for independence, the lack of teachers and schools.

Unemployment was high and the nutrition of the people was not good.

Mr Da Silva said one of the immediate aims for the Natarbora Agricultural College was to become self-sufficent.

He is hoping that after a two year course the students would have had the training to find jobs in agriculture, but he did worry about the need for trained teachers.

Mr Da Silva then translated for Mr Elvino Do Rego, the district administrator of the Manatuto District which covers Natarbora, the district with which the Bega Valley Shire Council has signed a friendship agreement.

Mr Do Rego's concerns were mainly for the health of his people, particularly the women and children.

The Minister and District Administrator were welcomed to the Bega Valley by the mayor, Cr David Hede, and the president of the Bega Valley Advocates for Timor-Leste, Ms Penelope Marshall.

Cr Hede went to Natarbora last year to sign the Friendship Agreement and see for himself the destruction wrought by the Indonesians before they left the country.

In his speech he praised the work of the Advocates, Rotary and the people of the Bega Valley in coming so 'fantastically" to the support of the people of Natarbora, but in particular the students at the Agricultural College.

Mrs Marshall said she welcomed the Minister and Mr Do Rego as friends of the Bega Valley.

"Timor-Leste is the newest democracy in the world; a democracy achieved after a long and extremely painful journey; a journey in which over 300,000 Timorese died in the last 30 years fighting for independence," she said.

"Australia has a long history in Timor and it is a history in which the Timorese people never, and I stress never, failed to help Australians who were in dire need and imminent peril."

She said it was with a sense of deep gratitude and a deep sense of commitment that the Bega Valley Advocates formed in May last year and it was with that same sense of deep gratitude and commitment that the Advocates continued their task, always in partnership with the people of Timor Leste and especially the people of Natarbora.

"It gives us, as Advocates, great pleasure to return in a small way the tremendous hospitality and friendship given to the visiting teams who have successively visited Timor over the last year.

"In just over a week, two Advocates will leave to commence the preparatory stages for the first Rotary team to arrive in July this year to rebuild the Natarbora Agricultural College - a three year Rotary project.

"In early August another Bega Advocate will travel to Timor and in late August another team of Advocates will follow."

Mrs Marshall paid special tribute to Jim and Moira Collins and their family and to Colleen and Allan Elton for their outstanding work for the Advocates and Rotary project.

Digital pic 072 23/6/05a

An exchange of gifts from the Timor-Leste Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Estanislau Da Silva, and the Bega Valley Shire mayor, Cr David Hede, at the civic reception for Mr Da Silva and Elvino Do Rego, district administrator of Manatuto District at the Bega Regional Gallery on Wednesday. Mr Do Rego (left), the Minister and the mayor are holding the framed Friendship agreement between the Bega Valley Shire and Natarbora, signed by Cr Hede and Mr Do Rego, and the mayor is wearing the tais given him by the Minister. The president of the Bega Valley Advocates for Timor-Leste, Penelope Marshall is on the right.

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