The Australia Timor-Leste Friendship movement has committed itself to continuing the Friendship process for the next ten years. At the end of the first ten years of the Australia Timor-Leste Friendship movement, each of the Friendship groups attending the 'Strengthening Friendship; People to People' conference held in Maubese over 27-28 August, recommitted themselves to a further ten years of Friendship with the people of Timor-Leste.
The Australian Friends of Timor-Leste at the conference also unanimously voted in favor of the Australia Timor-Leste Friendship Network (AusTimorFN) establishing a website in cooperation with State Administration to share information between Friends in Timor-Leste and Friends in Australia. The conference brought together more than 100 people from Friendship groups in Australia and Timor-Leste for what was Timor-Leste's largest international conference outside Dili.
Addressing the conference, the President of Timor-Leste, HE Jose Ramos-Horta, highlighted the role played by the Friendship movement in Underpinning relations between Timor-Leste and Australia. President Ramos-Horta said: 'For a few years and Quit a while I have been encouraging to following this, what we can say more than people to people so lidarity and people to people relationships one of the best positive things about the relationships is based on the schools, not the government arrangements is real people to people and it’s goes beyond high official levels in Australia and Timor Leste to this level, to the Districts, sub-districts where unfortunately often the people fell that not much attention pay to them either by their own government or by the donor community .' '
He said, “If you travel around Timor Leste yourself, you will be able to find out by yourself whether Australian Aids presence or Australian Aids fund has had any impact on Maubese? Or is there any impact in Suai? Or Oekuse. We have questioned that. Where all the Australian money gone in this last ten years? You can investigate. You can monitor. But as we also said about US or American Aids or Japanese aid. We heard about billions of Dollars in the past ten years spent in or for Timor Leste. Where the result? I am going for a phrase which became very use able by many now in the government. There is yes, I have no doubt there is yes, that Australian Aid spent billions of Dollars, but on East Timor not in East Timor. On East Timor can be translated into billions of dollars paid for consultants, for consultants, for studies or more studies on poverty. The World Bank, the ADB and UNDP. Everyone is doing studies on poverty. As if poor people in Maubese has doesn’t know these words.” President Horta recognised Australia is the biggest donor to his country which every year contributing almost a hundred million to the Timor Leste Government but he also share his frustration with these Australian who came to Maubese that most of the aids money have been spent on the name of poor Timorese but not in East Timorese. He added most of the funds remain in Canberra or Washington or elsewhere.
Today there are 67 friendship groups of Australian and Timorese but Horta said the number is not enough yet and he wishes the Maubese conference participant to do their best to his target which 442 villages in East Timor to be adopt by city council in australia. “The challenge to you here, who came to Maubese with your Compatriot who dealing with Australia please spread the message,” said Horta.
My hope,' he continued, 'is for each suco in Timor-Leste to be adopted by a council in Australia. I want each school in Australia to adopt a school in Timor-Leste.'
President Horta appeals to the Australian friendships people who were participated Maubese conference to lobby their federal Government to accept the Timorese guest workers in Australia after delaying for years. “We have people in UK. We have people in South Korea. Australia next door still refuge to take Timorese guest workers. Whoever emerges in office next the few days or whatever, I hope I pay or accept my services lobbying Australian labour, whoever becomes the official Prime Minister of Australia as an example or a test you know why don’t we take, ok lets take 1000 Timorese in 2011, nine months visa. It would be fantastic. So whatever, you can do to persuade the next government we will be very much appreciate. It has been going on for five or six years absolutely closed door. The reason none heard why so paranoid about Timorese,” said Horta.
Opening the conference, the Timor-Leste Minister for State Administration, Sr Archangelo Leite, said he warmly supported the Friendship movement and wanted to see it continue to develop and to progress. He said that governments come and go, but that friendship continued.
The Australian Ambassador to Timor-Leste, HE Peter Heyward, told the conference that the Friendship movement was a true symbol of the closeness of Australia and Timor-Leste. He said that the people to people relationships provided an underlying substance to more formal bilateral relations.
The conference addressed a number of themes, with the individual Friendship groups identifying the long-term commitment of both Australian and Timor-Leste friends to the movement as being their greatest strength, followed by the successes of their many local projects. Communication, including language, telephone, internet and sometimes road access, continued to be the biggest challenge to the movement.
In his closing remarks, the Director of State Administration, Snr Abilio Caetano, referred to brothers and sisters coming together in love, peace and solidarity. He said that the challenges to the Friendship movement were in the process of being overcome.
The Convenor of AusTimorFN, Rae Kingsbury, offered her warm thanks to the participants to the conference, saying that the Friendship movement was owned by those people who comprised it.