Since Timor-Leste’s independence in 2002, Australia has been its largest bilateral donor of development assistance, as well as a leadership role to ensure security and stability in the country. Less well-known, is the impressive number of connections made between Timor-Leste local areas and Australian local governments via city friendship agreements.
With the government of Timor-Leste soon to introduce a new system of municipal government, there are significant opportunities to share local governance experience and expertise from Australia. LG Professionals Australia has been providing technical assistance to newly established and existing local level governments in our region since 1936 in Papua New Guinea. Our organisation has a long history of working and connecting with our peers in our region to promote strong and effective local government by providing technical exchange and assistance on the profession of local government and its vital role in community quality of life.
Timor-Leste achieved formal independence from Indonesia on 20 May 2002. With 15,410 square kilometres and 1.2 million people, it is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 162nd out of 182 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index. Around half the population currently lives below the poverty line of USD 0.88 per day.
Vice Minister Tomas do Rosario Cabral recently attended the National Congress on the Gold Coast and held several discussions with LG Professionals Australia representatives. We received an invitation from the Vice Minister to participate in Timor-Leste’s 5th Conference on Deconcentration, Administrative Decentralization and Local Government. Two board members – Dennis Hovenden and myself (Ricki Bruhn), and CEO Lauren Oakey will attend.
The team is likely to discuss a Memorandum of Understanding to provide a framework to offer technical support to the newly established municipal governments and work closely on local governance systems. This MoU will support the existing framework of collaboration that already exists between the Government of Victoria and Timor-Leste. It will provide a written commitment from both parties to work together to achieve outcomes for both the government and people of Timor-Leste and enable international technical support opportunities for local government practitioners in Australia. It will also reinforce our friendship with Timor-Leste and provide new opportunities for working together in the future.
We hope to build partnerships and collaboration with our colleagues in Timor-Leste and to explore and agree on ways in which we can assist in their establishment of a new system of local government in Timor-Leste that can deliver improved social and economic conditions for their citizens.
As well as attending the conference on decentralisation we will meet with key representatives from the Timor-Leste government regarding our proposed collaboration and agree on some concrete actions to develop after the conference. There are also a number of Municipal Partnerships being established between Australia and Timor-Leste and we are aiming to visit some of the local municipalities.
I am looking forward to visiting this neighbouring country, meeting its people and to witness first hand some of the challenges faced by the government and its people.
Timor-Leste's Fifth Conference on Deconcentration, Administrative Decentralization and Local Government.
Dili, Timor Leste, August 17-18.
There are a number of dignitaries scheduled to speak at the conference including representatives from China and Portugal. Local dignitaries include:
- The Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste – Dr Rui Maria de Araujo;
- The Minister of State, Coordinator of the issues of State Administration and Justice Issues, and Minister of State Administration – Mr Dionisio da Costa Babo Soares;
- The Minister of Strategic Planning and Investment – Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao;
- The Vice Minister of the Ministry State Administration of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste – Tomas do Rosario Cabral