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East Timor Support

East Timor FlagThe Friends of Maliana group is a partnership project between the communities of Leichhardt Local Government Area and the people of Maliana west of Dili in East Timor.

Leichhardt Council established the group in 2001, a year before  East Timor  had its first vote for independence. Since then, the group has raised money for vital rebuilding projects in the town of Maliana and supported the advancement of East Timor as a new and emerging nation.

In 2005, Leichhardt Council and the Friends of Maliana group signed a formal friendship agreement with the District Administration in Maliana to recognise this partnership.  A resigning of the agreement is scheduled for early 2014.

In 2007 a delegation from Leichhardt LGA travelled to Timor Leste in November/December 2007 to prepare the groundwork for the next stage of the projects. Deputy Mayor, Cr Damian Cobley-Finch, Cr Maire Sheehan and Media Officer Shane McArdle, other members of the delegation included Jill Collier (Principal, Sydney Secondary College - Blackwattle Campus), David Rapaport (Architect, Emergency Architects Australia), Chris Hollonds (Builder over seeing the projects) and Jane Waddell (Nurse interested in new Hospital in Maliana) formed part of the delegation.

Where is Maliana?

Maliana Location MapMaliana is the Capital of the District of Bobonaro in the west of the country. The town is approximately 65km west of Dili and approximately 8km from the border of West Timor.  Download a pdf version of the Maliana map (PDF 306.9KB) 

Because of its close proximity to the Border of West Timor, the people of Maliana suffered shocking atrocities during the violence in 1999, more so than a lot of other towns in the west of the country. Maliana and other western towns are also difficult to access, resulting in a greater need for assistance.

The economy of Maliana and Bobonaro District is largely based on subsistence agriculture, on family holdings and livestock management on communal land.

What is the Friendship Agreement?

In July 2005, a delegation from Leichhardt Friends of Maliana group travelled to East Timor to sign a Friendship Agreement with the District Administration of Maliana. This agreement formalises the relationship we have had with the Maliana community since 2001 and confirms our ongoing commitment to helping the community rebuild their lives and infrastructure like schools, sports facilities and administration buildings.

This friendship agreement is one of a number of agreements between local Councils or groups in Australia and East Timorese communities. The Local Government Association of NSW and the Victorian Local Governance Association have assisted in establishing over 40 of these and is seeking to set up more in the future.

Read more about the Australia Timor-Leste Friendship Network at their website.

The Joint LGSA - VLGA program has established a Friendship Liaison Officer’s office to assist groups and local Councils here in Australia liaise with their respective friendship towns and to provide feedback to both communities. Unfortunately the ongoing difficulties in Dili have caused the Friendship Liaison project office to be temporarily closed however, plans are being implemented to re-open and staff the office again as soon as possible.

Who are the Friends of Maliana Committee?

The Friends of Maliana Committee is made up of Leichhardt Councillors, community activists and representatives from the SydneySecondaryCollege all deeply committed to helping the East Timorese people achieve a better life.

The Group meets when necessary to discuss strategies for fundraising and to plan projects that help the community of Maliana. The group also organises market stalls and other fundraising activities assisting raising money for the following:

  • Rebuilding & refurbishment of a library & community centre in Maliana – opened 2000;
  • Continually restocking of the library with books in Tetum, Portuguese, English & Bahasa Indonesian – ongoing;
  • Provided training for East Timorese librarian & staff – ongoing;
  • Provided wages for 2 local staff for over 4 years – ongoing;
  • Supported Veteran Women’s Weaving co-op through purchase of tais (woven) products for sale & fundraising – ongoing;
  • Supported the sale of East Timor coffee as fundraiser - ongoing;
  • Sponsored art & music workshops in schools in Maliana & Dili;
  • Supported Arte Moris Free Art school & National Sound & Film; Archive -training students in art & media studies ongoing;
  • Sponsored Tekee Media Music project – transcription & recording of traditional East Timorese music for use in schools.

Read the pdf-new-icon.gif April 2013 Report to Council on the Friends of Maliana project (PDF 334.8KB).

How can you get involved?

To find out more about how you can become part of the Friends of Maliana, contact Maire Sheehan, Facilitator of AusTimorFN New South Wales.  Maire has a long-standing commitment to Timor-Leste and her work with the Friends of Maliana in particular.  She was Mayor of Leichhardt in 2001 when she signed a Community to Community relationship agreement with Maliana.

Contact Maire on nswaustimorfn@gmail.com to find out how you can become part of the Friends of Maliana or support their work.