Timor Leste and Soibada

Towards the end of September 2009, Fr George, Kathy Gee (Principal, Maria Regina School) and Tamara Harding paid a quick visit to Timor Leste to formalise our Parish partnership agreement with the village of Soibada. It was a most confronting and moving experience. Especially meeting the local children. After witnessing the plight of the people first hand you become compelled to do something to rectify it.


Over time there will be detailed presentations in both churches and the schools and lots of information on our web site to explain the nature of this project and how you can all become involved. For, your support and involvement is truly needed so that we can make a substantial difference to the lives of these people and in the future of their children.


Timor-Leste, or as it used to be called, East Timor, is our closest neighbour, the worlds newest nation and the poorest country in the region. It is only one hours flight from Darwin. Ten years on from independence, the rural areas of East Timor are still among the most disadvantaged places on the face of the earth. Almost two-thirds of its adult population is illiterate. Over 50% of the population is under 15 years of age. Its children face extraordinary challenges. One in ten babies die before reaching their first birthday. Timorese women are ten times more likely to die during child birth than Australian women.

Sacred Heart Church (Soibada)

The violence of September 1999 went a long way to destroying up to 90 per cent of East Timor's school buildings and related infrastructure. A lack of simple resources, such as pens and pencils, has translated into a community disaster. Education is very important for the East Timorese. With education they can grow as a nation. To obtain this good education, they need the support of the international community, especially Australians. They speak several languages at school - Tetum, Portugese, Indonesian and English. The country is struggling to find its own curriculum using both the national language, Portuguese, and Tetum.

Furthermore ... part of the colonial apparatus of the Indonesians was that schools had to teach in the Bahasa language of Indonesia. Most teachers - 80 per cent of secondary schools staff - were Indonesian. All of these were removed when independence came. As a result only one in 100 teachers now in East Timor schools has had any training.

Needless to say, our parish's initial focus will be on education. For that will lead to improvement in so many other areas of their lives. Out of necessity, we will also do something quite quickly about sanitation in the village.


East Timor's independence has given the newly emerged state a rare opportunity to rebuild civil society according to clearly defined values, integrating development goals into the nation-building process. By establishing partnerships with the Timorese community, key institutions and central and local government authorities, we as the Pittwater community, can assist to ensure sustainable reconstruction and development in a potentially fragile post-conflict environment for the Asia-Pacific region's newest and poorest nation.

The School

There are many ways that all members of our community will be able to get involved in our relationship with the Soibada. As the relationship develops, assistance required in specific areas will become evident. There will eventually be opportunities for members of our community to visit Soibada. However, in the meantime, if you feel you have something to offer, can help in some way, or would like more information about East Timor, Soibada and our Parish project, please contact me by clicking here or see the  number listed in the Bulletin. Any positive thoughts and ideas will be most welcome.

Roadside Markets

Pittwater Council is also part of the project and there is a possibility we will be joined by other local Churches.


Teachers' Office (with lone typewriter) Classroom! Children
Elderly man moving buffalos People of the village Kathy Gee, Fr George and others
A local Sister