Subject: Aussie cities unite; to assist; East Timor

Also: Rebuilding a land torn by warfare

Oakleigh Monash/Spingvale Dandenong Leader (Australia)

November 19, 2003 Wednesday

Cities unite; to assist; East Timor

By Rachel Kleinman

ALL Melbourne councils will be asked to contribute towards friendship city agreements with one of Australia's nearest neighbours.

Darebin Cr Rae Perry, who helped establish the first agreement in 1999, is leading the charge to appoint a co-ordinator for the friendship cities to be based in East Timor.

Fifteen Victorian municipalities presently have agreements with East Timor districts, including Moreland, Hume, Yarra, Darebin, Port Phillip, Kingston, Mornington, Frankston, Whitehorse, Casey, Moonee Valley and Boroondara.

Some are formally ratified with financial support from councils and others are informal agreements backed by community groups.

Greater Dandenong Mayor Kevin Walsh said the council would consider support for East Timor.

"The agreement is something this council would be happy to consider," Cr Walsh said.

"East Timor has been through a tough time and we're happy to be friends."

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial and in-kind support are poured into East Timor annually through the agreements with each group liaising with local contacts in its chosen districts.

But Cr Perry said a co-ordinator was needed in East Timor to overcome huge infrastructure and communication problems that sometimes made it hard to achieve results in the fledgling nation.

The country is still struggling to find the resources to rebuild after the violence and destruction that followed the independence vote and Indonesia's departure in 1999.

The Victorian Local Governance Association agreed in principle last week to back the scheme and the Municipal Association of Victoria will also be asked to lend its support.

Cr Perry said all councils, not just those with agreements, would be asked to contribute.

She said, if the project received financial backing, the co-ordinator position would be advertised in East Timor but also among the East Timorese community in Melbourne.


Northcote Leader (Australia)

November 19, 2003 Wednesday

Rebuilding a land torn by warfare

By Rachel Kleinmanin East Timor

IF YOU stand with your back to town and look across the beach, East Timor could be a tropical island paradise.

Pigs and goats demand as much space on Dili's beachside promenade as mopeds and pedestrians.

Stalls sell fresh fish, bananas and pineapples on the beach.

But turn to face the land and, in many places, East Timor still resembles a war zone.

Hundreds of Melburnians have answered East Timor's appeal for help with rebuilding.

This week the Leader reports from East Timor on those remarkable efforts.

The country was invaded by Indonesia in 1975 after 400 years of Portuguese colonial rule.

In 1999, 24 years and an estimated 200,000 East Timorese deaths later, the Indonesians left, blazing a trail of destruction as they departed.

But scattered all over the country from Dili to the districts, Melburnians have pitched in to help what is one of Australia's nearest and most desperate neighbours.

Australian Ambassador to East Timor Paul Foley estimated there were 500 Australians working in paid positions across the nation, plus 400 volunteers.

Almost 1000 Australian soldiers are also posted there, though half are due to leave on December 1.

Rotary clubs have raised millions of dollars and sent dozens of volunteers to build orphanages and schools.

Since 1999, several Melbourne councils have forged friendship city links with districts in East Timor to provide much-needed funds and expertise.

Darebin councillor Rae Perry is calling for all Melbourne councils to pay for an East Timor-based co-ordinator for the friendship city agreements.

The move has the support of the Victorian Local Governance Association.

Melbourne schools have also formed friendship school agreements with East Timorese schools.

Despite some setbacks, Melburnians have continually poured effort into helping rebuild a nation with a tragic past.

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