History of the Liquiçá District
We have a ‘friendship city’ relationship with the Liquiçá District in East Timor dating back to 2003. East Timor is one of the poorest countries in the world, with poverty levels at alarming rates; more than two in five people live on less than 55 cents per day, with only 58 per cent of people having access to clean water.
Liquiçá is a region west of the country’s capital Dili, where Australian soldiers operated during World War II. The district has a population of 73,024 (Census 2015) and an area of 543 square kilometres.
During the Indonesian occupation, the Indonesian government constructed many buildings in Liquiçá, but after the referendum of 1999 and during the militia's campaign almost everything was destroyed. Most notably, many East Timorese were murdered during the Liquiçá Church Massacre of April 1999. Although the exact number of victims is unknown, it is believed that between 60 and 200 Timorese people seeking refuge in the Catholic Church were killed by pro-Indonesia militias.
Today, Liquiçá is primarily an agricultural district dependent on the production of coffee and other crops such as rice and corn, as well as fishing and tourism.
Friends of Liquiçá
We work closely with the Friends of Liquiçá, a community group first established in 2003. We meet to discuss potential projects to raise funds and awareness for the people of the Liquiçá District and to develop recommendations on furthering the friendship arrangement Council has with the region.
In 2015, FOL members and Council officers met on 27 April, 22 June and 19 October. The first meeting for 2016 is to be scheduled for February.
Timeline of events
- In 2003, Council established a partnership with the Liquiçá District through the Australia Timor-Leste Friendship Network (AusTimorFN).
- In 2005, we held our first Mayoral Charity Community Race Day (formerly known as the Liquiçá Plate) and since then we have raised over $120,000 to support projects in the Liquiçá District.
- In 2007, we held a community forum and celebration at the Flemington Community Centre to recognise the anniversary of the East Timorese referendum on 30 August 1999 and since then we have continued to raise awareness of the plight of the East Timorese people.
- In 2008, we entered into an agreement with a volunteer-based charity called Life, Love & Health to fund two projects in the area; the rebuilding of a school in Garianna and a river diversion project in Lepa. An amount of AU$33,000 was allocated to fund these projects and in August 2009, a member of Council’s executive staff travelled to East Timor to attend the official opening of the school. Photographer Luka Kauzlaric documented these projects through a photographic study sponsored by Council with the images to be displayed at the Hotel Esplanada in Dili.
- In August 2010, Councillor Cusack visited East Timor along with a member of Council’s Executive Staff, to participate in a Strengthening Friendship Workshop. This was to recognise a decade of the Australia Timor-Leste Friendship Movement and each of the Friendship Groups recommitted themselves to a further ten years of friendship with the people of East Timor.
- During this visit, a meeting was held with Leonel de Jesus Carvalho, the District Administrator of the Liquiçá District and Mateus Fatima Luan, the Sub-District Administrator, to discuss key issues in the region and any potential support Council may provide.
- There was also the opportunity to attend an event at the Australian Embassy hosted by Ambassador Peter Heyward, where Kirsty Sword Gusmão spoke in her role as Goodwill Ambassador for Education. Kirsty is the wife of the Prime Minister and former President of East Timor, Xanana Gusmão, and was particularly interested in Council’s friendship city relationship given her early years spent in Melbourne.
- In 2010, we arranged for sporting goods donated by various clubs to be taken over to the Liquiçá District and we sponsored two Timorese locals to travel with the national team to an AFL tournament in Bali.
- In October 2011 the Community Development Officer from the Sub District Administrator’s office of the Liquiçá District attended a training program in Melbourne organised by the Department of Planning and Community Development. More recently, A member of Council’s executive staff then met with the Liquiçá District Community Development Officer and provided him with a tour of Moonee Valley and discussed potential projects for the region. Projects identified included the development of a football field and the establishment of a a satellite internet connection to the District Administrator’s office and to a community spaces within the township of Liquiçá.
- In 2014 the Partnership Working Group, in conjunction with Council sponsored the attendance of the Community Development Officer from the Liquiçá Sub District to attend the Working Together for Timor-Leste Conference in Melbourne from 26 to 27 July 2014.
- In order to better facilitate a consistent relationship between Victorian Councils and friendship groups in Timor-Leste, the Victorian Government and the Council of Ministers for Timor-Leste developed a standard municipal agreement for consideration. This agreement provides a uniform approach for local government in respect to friendship relationships including the friendship relationship between MVCC and Liquiçá. On 23 September 2014 at its Ordinary meeting of Council, the Mayor and Chief Executive signed the municipal/district cooperation agreement. Read the report.
- In conjunction with a visiting Timor-Leste delegation led by Secretary of State, Tomas do Rosario Cabral, the East Timorese signatory to our agreement, Council received an invite to attend a dinner and formal signing ceremony on 16 October 2014. This was attended by a Councillor and Senior Officer who witnessed the counter-signing of our agreement.
- On the 16 March 2015 State and Local Governments formed a Committee to provide an opportunity for organisations to come together and share ideas and discuss support for their respective Districts.
- In 2015, Council participated in the Australia Award Fellowship Program which saw six senior officers from the Timor-Leste central government spend four weeks in Victoria on an extended study tour.
- On 27 April 2015 we welcomed our international visitors and hosted them for two weeks. The purpose of their cultural exchange program/study tour was to strengthen their leadership and local government administration skills and the knowledge of members of the Timor-Leste (TL) National Technical Group on Administrative Decentralisation. The Fellows were selected based on their responsibility to provide high level policy advice and professional support to TL Ministers who are overseeing the decentralisation process. Ms Lidia de Sousa Guterres represented the Ministries of Finance and Ms Claudinha Soares Pinto represented State Administration. Many past graduates of the Victorian Fellowship Program hold senior positions within the Timor-Leste Government, including as Vice-Ministers of the current Government.
- At a meeting of the Liquiçá District Partnership Working Group on 22 June 2015 members considered a report from InfoTimor on a proposal request for training funds. The Working Group recommended that this be presented to Council for the allocation of expenditure for the provision of computer training to seven village Chiefs and seven secretaries within the Liquiçá District. This is scheduled to be considered on 28 July 2015.
- Council endorsed the recommendation of the Liquiçá District Partnership Working Group to allocate the required funds for the computer training for seven village Chiefs and secretaries. Read the report, Item 9.16.
- A senior officer of Council continues to be involved in Local Government Victoria’s Committee on the Timor-Leste Partnership Network by working collaboratively with other organisations and Councils to share ideas and discuss ongoing support to respective Districts. The next scheduled meeting is Friday, 11 December 2015.
Technology Resource Hub
In 2012, Council entered into an agreement with the xpand Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that creates and supports enterprises that encourage social inclusion of disadvantaged people to build their social and economic participation.
In June 2013, the xpand Foundation completed the establishment of a Technology Resource Hub in Liquiçá, in partnership with Info Timor, a local not-for-profit social enterprise focusing on using information communication technology as a primary tool to create positive social change.
This Hub will allow the community access to quality, affordable technology services, including computers, the Internet and associated training. Initially funded by Council, the service will be built on a social enterprise model to ensure its ongoing viability and sustainability.
An existing UN building located beside the Sub-District Administrator's office in the township of Liquiçá was identified as a suitable site for the Hub which will be managed by a local NGO. At the start of 2013, staff travelled to Baucau for two months to undertake training on all aspects of managing the facility.
As of August 2013, there were over 50 local people enrolled in a computer training program at the Liquiçá Technology Resource Hub.
This project was endorsed by Council at its Planning and Citizens Meeting of 4 September 2012. Read the report.
A further update was provided to Council at its Ordinary Meeting of 27 August 2013. Read the report.
A subsequent report which in addition to providing an update on the Technology Resource Hub was also seeking approval for additional funding to support the facility for a further 12 months. The report detailed a number of other requests which arose from the Liquiçá District Partnership Working Group meeting held on 16 April 2014. Read the report.
To find out more about our friendship city relationship with the Liquiçá district, please contact Lauren Treby, Health and Community Planning Officer on 9243 8888 or email@example.com