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Does Friendship provide the basis for


By Ann Wigglesworth of Friends of Suai/Covalima and

Alberto de Jesus Barros of Covalima Community Centre
• Concepts of Friendship and Development
• Emergence of the Friendship idea
• Changing context: post-1999 reconstruction,
transition to development, the megaproject.
• Growth of the Covalima Community Centre
• Education and project activities in Covalima
• Third party partnerships
• Public awareness activities in Port Phillip
• Exchanges, joint planning and learning
The Concept of Friendship
A sustainable and productive relationship
based in dialogue, trust and strategic vision,
built on a spirit of volunteerism and solidarity
on both sides.
The concept of development
“Development … meets the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own
needs.” (Bruntland report 1987)

Timorese activists argue

that development is where
they, as Timorese, are
agents of change.
Development partnerships
which support the values
and mission of their own
organisation are valued
over projects funded and
implemented by donors
(Wigglesworth 2016:125)
The Roots of Friendship 1999
• 1999 – Independence Ballot -78.5% vote against
autonomy with Indonesia
• Widespread violence and destruction by
Indonesian military and their paid militia
• 1999 – Media images of the violence and fear
generated huge response and desire to help.
• 2000 – Concept of locality-based friendship was
put forward by Timorese leadership, promoted by
Abel Guterres in Melbourne
• It built on the historic debt from the Second
World War when commandos promised never to
forget their Timorese friends and saviours.
Friends of Suai beginnings
• Abel Guterres proposed City of Port Phillip befriend Suai,
largely destroyed and traumatised from the Church
Massacre on 6 September 1999
• Friendship Agreement signed 4 May 2000 by President
Xanana Gusmao
• Information gathering visits to Suai Feb & Aug 2000, &
anniversary of massacre visit Sept 2000
• Started to renovate a building for a community centre
• Recruited an Australian Volunteer (AVI), first of three.
• Start of teaching IT and ELT 2002
Reconstruction and early actions
• 2002-3 Responding to need construction of schools,
school desks and chairs to get kids into school
• Nutrition project in Suai hospital 2004-6 for children
with chronic malnutrition. Rotary funded the kitchen.
• Bakery project supported by Fijian peacekeepers
• Sewing project for widowed women 2003-2007
• Mechanics training for youth
• Forestry project
Towards development 2004-6
• 2004-6 change of FOS staff: Pat Jessen in Port Phillip;
Alberto, Francisco and Simao start at Suai Community
• Timorese staff decide there is no need for AVIs
• Scholarship program starts with links to ETDA, Dili
• Suai Secondary School library project starts
• 2005-6 oil revenues boost National Budget. FOS focus shifts
away from infrastructure to development
• Political-military crisis in 2006 puts on hold activities.
• Friendship tested when ADF causes damage to Community
• Suai activists were commitment
to share their skills by teaching
English and computer skills
• Self-financing English, IT classes
from 2002 to present
• 2009-2014 a series of Australian
retired teachers volunteered in
Suai to train Covalima English
teachers and CCC staff.
• Science and Mathematics
training for teachers in Covalima.
Scholarship Program, 2003-9, 12
orphan 12 (7 girls, 5 boys) & 8 Uni
199 finalist. Continuing the
Scholarship program from 2012 to
- Enrolment 272 (148 female, 124
male) in CCC.
- 155 (92 female, 63 male) placed
in training centres, schools and
- 85 (43 female, 42 male) awarded
- 61 (31 female, 30 male) got jobs.
Covalima Community Centre
• From two staff (2005) to 35 staff and vols (2019)
• Staff and volunteers learning on the job
• Expansion – new training rooms
• Registration as an NGO
• Registration as RTO
• Change of name from Suai Community Centre to
Covalima Community Centre in 2007 to reflect
focus of activities in Covalima District
Community Centre Moto
The Hali tree represents
the Community Centre as
a place of shade and safety
for the community, where
people can gather
together and share their
experiences about
education and ‘Haklaken, Hein, Simu no
development in all sectors. Hamutuk hodi Hala’o no Hakat
On the community centre ba Oin’
symbol, the moto under ‘Inform, Wait, Accept & together
the Hali tree is: Implement and Step Forward’
The Friendship extension
• Port Phillip commitment extended
another 10 years to 2020
• Joint planning for Strategic Plan
2010-2020 involving consultation
with 251 people from 30 villages
• FOS becomes FOS/C Friends of
Suai/Covalima in 2011
External changes:
• Electricity arrives in Suai 2011
• South Coast Development starts to
Events and activities by FOS/C
Citizens of Port Phillip were engaged
and informed by FOS/C in a number of
• Cultural exhibitions, 2008, 2010,
2013,2015 in Port Phillip
• Elwood College civic education
conferences 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016
• Timor Election Monitoring missions
2012, 2017
• Education Study Tour 2015
• Public meetings
• Anniversary events (Black Saturday 6
• Fundraising activities – Trivia nights,
film nights, dinners etc.
• Rotary: nutrition project kitchen,
primary school building, secondary
school library and school WASH project
• ATA (Renew): solar panels for Health
centres in Covalima; village lighting
• InfoXchange: InfoTimor computer
maintenance, WithOneSeed forestry
• Rural Women’s Development Project –
IWDA (2009-2019)
• Oxfam: Civil society networks support,
agriculture project (from 2016), ‘Land
and Inclusive Development’ joint
project (from 2016).
Exchanges, joint planning & learning
• Annual visits by FOS/C coordinator
• Visits to Melbourne by Suai friends
• Volunteer English teachers in Suai
• FOS/C committee visits including
capacity development
• Joint project planning with IWDA,
Oxfam, InfoXchange, Renew
• Community Development student
from Victoria University placements
at the Community Centre
• Training in community engagement
for Community Centre staff
Campaign for Gender Equality
Rural Women’s Development Program (IWDA,
2009-2019) impacts women’s political
participation in the Sucos and Suai. Staff
• “We are proud that Friends of Suai gave us
the support so that women in Covalima can
become women leaders. Now women are a
force in Covalima!’
• “On International Women’s Day 300 women
paraded through the streets of Suai shouting
out the message:
How Friendship contributed to
• Early and continuing financial commitment by Port Phillip
• Staff (both places) brought good skills and stayed long term
• Community committees (both places) were established and
had committed and skilled membership
• Community Centre staff committed to Suai development.
• The Friendship could attract third party resources to support
activities and offer technical inputs
• The Friendship adapted its program as the external
environment changed
• Community Centre staff capacity increased continuously.
• Ongoing commitment of FOS/C members in Port Phillip
• Friendship delivered trust, mutual respect and joint planning.
Unanswered questions:
• Will Port Phillip Council continue support? How will the
Friendship adapt and continue?

Thank you very much for your attention:

• We are happy to answer any questions and welcome
other Friendship experiences and perspectives.

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