Saturday, May 21, 2022

East Timor 20 years of independence celebration

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Class in East Timor
Class in school funded by Friends of Lolotoe.
Photo courtesy Tarrangower Times.

Friday 20 May 2022 marks 20 years since East Timor (Timor Leste) gained independence.

Timor Leste is Australia’s closest neighbour and is comprised of the eastern half of the island and two nearby islands. East Timor is the poorest country in South East Asia.

After becoming independent from Portugal, East Timor was invaded by Indonesia in 1975. In 1999 after sustained and mounting international pressure, Indonesia allowed a UN-run referendum. East Timorese overwhelmingly voted for independence.

Indonesian militia then commenced a scorched earth campaign. Hundreds were killed, and large numbers were pushed into West Timor as refugees and remain there today. The majority of the country’s infrastructure was destroyed during this attack. The International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) was deployed and brought the violence to an end.

The United Nations administered a transitional period, and East Timor was internationally recognised as an independent nation on 20 May 2002.

The Australian Timor Leste Friendship Network was established in 2009, and in the same year, Mount Alexander Shire entered into a Friendship Relationship Agreement with the sub-district of Lolotoe, Timor Leste and Friends of Lolotoe Timor-Leste Incorporated. This friendship is based on mutual support and respect for each other’s culture. The Friendship group started work raising funds for school infrastructure, school resources, scholarships and gardening programs. Teachers have been trained, a library stocked, and a chicken raising group started. It’s all about food security, education and quality of life. The group also raised funds locally for food and basic necessities during the pandemic and when the devastating floods hit the country in 2021.

The group paid for representatives of the Lolotoe community to visit Mount Alexander in 2014, so they could tour various agricultural businesses to gain expertise in producing food. Members of Friends of Lolotoe have visited the district on several occasions to meet with the community to discuss their needs and programs the group can help establish.

Friends of Lolotoe is very grateful for the support and partnerships from our local community over the last 10 years. These include schools, community groups and individuals.

The group is currently focussing on providing funds for a Librarian, Library resources, English language classes and food security programs.

Images of the group’s work and the Lolotoe community will be on display for the East Timor 20 year Independence celebration in the Castlemaine library from 16 to 20 May. The Mount Alexander community is invited to further celebrations to be held in October during the Friends of Lolotoe annual garden fete at The Hub, corner of Templeton and Barker Streets. For further information or if you would like to be involved with the group, you can visit their Facebook page or email friendsoflolotoe@gmail.com.

Tarrangower Times 13 May 2022

This article appeared in the Tarrangower Times, 13 May 2022.

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