April 7 - 13, 2019: Issue 400



Next year marks the tenth anniversary of our Pittwater’s partnership with the village of Soibada in Timor Leste. We plan to celebrate this relationship in a variety of ways. Over coming months I will provide a little background and some updates on the projects we have embarked upon to aid that community.

In 2008 the children of Maria Regina Catholic Primary School in Avalon asked to help the children in Timor Leste.  Their enthusiasm and desire to live the school motto Of “Making a Difference” was the driving force behind an incredible project that has grown to embrace the entire community of the Northern Beaches. 

Since then numerous schools clubs, churches, businesses, surf clubs, Rotary clubs, and community groups have become intrinsically involved and have assisted with projects initiated by the community in the village. Pittwater Friends of Soibada became a registered, tax deductible charity.

Timor Leste is one of Australia’s nearest neighbours. Only one hour’s flight from Darwin, the country has been ravaged by war. Over 250,000 Timorese died in 25 years of vicious Indonesian control before they were granted Independence. Australia has a huge debt to the Timorese. In WW2 the people protected our soldiers from the invading Japanese. After promising friendship we let them down in 1975 when the Indonesians claim the country. Soibada is a remote village high in the mountains on the eastern part of the Island of Timor. East Timor is now Independent and West Timor still remains under the rule of Indonesia. It is very beautiful but the people are impoverished and struggle to sustain themselves and their families. 

In 2010 a group of volunteers visited Timor Leste, we were accompanied by the General Manager of Pittwater Council. A Friendship Agreement was signed with the local government of Mantuto in  Timor Leste linking our community with Soibada. The aim was to provide support for sustainable development projects as directed by the people of Soibada. These people needed a hand up not a hand out. Education is the key to the future. Our goal is not to make the change, but to facilitate the change so that it comes from within the Soibada community. We must enable the people to help themselves and restore the dignity that has been stolen from them during years of oppression. They need ownership of any project and the impetus for change must be internal.

This has led to many varied projects over the last 9 years that span all facets of village life. The community here on the Northern Beaches has helped Soibada in many positive ways.  

My personal link with Timor Leste came about as a result of my military service there in 1999 as part of the International Force under the Command of our Governor General, Sir Peter Cosgrove. During that time I witnessed first hand the results of the brutal occupation. The destruction of the land and infrastructure and the devastation and suffering of the people had a life changing impact on me. I would never be the same. I found myself unable to turn my back on these people who had become my friends when my deployment ended and I returned to the normality of life in Australia. (You can hear more about this on this podcast Life on the Line episode 48 )

In Timor Leste in 1999

In the coming weeks I will provide updates on past and current programs and let you know how you can get involved if you are interested. We are always looking for volunteers both here at home and to travel to Soibada with us. 

Watch this space for regular updates on each one! In the meantime have a look at Pittwater Friends of Soibada Website and Facebook page or contact me to see how you can get involved.

Tamara Sloper-Harding OAM
Ph: 0403 226 699
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/Pittwater-Friends-Of-Soibada-
Website: www.pittwaterfriendsofsoibada.org.au

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