Following the long-standing successes of other Australian-East Timor friendship groups, the Friends of Balibo was launched at the offices of the Victorian Local Governance Association at 7pm on Wednesday 26 November 2008.
Because of the symbolic significance of Balibo to all Australians, the Friends of Balibo represents a 'community of interest', rather than a community based on a Local Government area as with other Friendship groups.
The Friends of Balibo project has the support of the Balibo House Trust, including the families of the Balibo Five journalists.
The meeting was well attended, including as inaugural members:
Rae Perry, VLGAShirley Sackleton, Balibo House Trust
Rob Hudson, MP, Balibo House Trust
John Milkins, Balibo House Trust
Greg Thomas, VLGA
Richard Brown, Friends of Aileu
Mario Soares, Friends of Aileu
Trish Woodcroft-Lee, Friends of Baucau
Jorge de Araujo
Kate Jeffery, East Timor Projects Coordinator
Isaac Reichman, Taking Off Tours
Luna Reichman, Taking Off Tours
Paul Stewart, and members of Dili Allstars
Sofie Anselmi, Australian Volunteers International
Bruce Butler, Friends of Same
Valeria D'Agostino, VLGA
Darren Ray, A/CEO, VLGA
Barbara Bennett, VLGA
Damien Kingsbury, Deakin University
Grazyna Zajdow, Deakin University
Filomena Capela, International Affairs
Beth Davidson, VLGAJoao Jong, Timor-Leste Consulate
Kevin Bailey, Timor-Leste Consul, Melbourne
Nuno Saldhnha, Radio Timor-Leste
Monica Ferrie, Department of Planning and Community Development
Ian L Gray
The Agenda for the inaugural meeting was as follows:
Chair: Rob Hudson
1. Welcome: Damien Kingsbury
3. Discussion on the purpose of Friends of Balibo: Damien outlined the gap in the Friendship groups, which had been created largely because of the existence of the Balibo Flag House as a community project.
John Milkens: It is ironic that Balibo did not have a Friendship group.
Paul Stewart: Asked if there were any links with WWII diggers that could be explored as further deepening the Australian connection. Paul also suggested contacting T-L and Portuguese authorities regarding the future of and access to the 'old fort', as well as making contact with Cuban doctors who had worked in or were working in Balibo.
Richard Brown: Friendships groups promote links between people, not large aid projects, mutual respect, collaboration and mutual learning, and local decision-making. They are community to community, person to person, and long-term in focus.
Mario Soares addressed the meeting on the status of the Friends of Alieu.
4. Relationship between the Friends of Balibo and the Balibo House Trust. It was agreed that the Friends of Balibo would work in support of and cooperation with the Balibo House Trust, noting overlap of Friendship and Trust members.
5. Determination of offices: Deferred to next meeting
6. Election of office holders:
Interim convener: Damien Kingsbury
Interim steering committee: Shirley Shackleton, John Milkins, Monice Ferrie, Rob Hudson, Peter Broadbent, Ann Cunningham, Anne Stewart, Nuno Saldanha.
7. Options for work in the Balibo sub-district: To be explored over coming visits by Damien Kingsbury and Grazyna Zajdow, and Anne Stewart.
Discussion of options for tourism, in particular visits to the Flag House and the fort, which is currently closed to the public.
Kevin Bailey: Development of homestays in Balibo?
Discussion of arranging an AVI volunteer to work in Balibo.
8. Links for Friends of Maliana, Bobonaro: To contact Friends of Maliana; Friends of Bobonaro represented.Any other business: The meeting was adjourned with agreement that the steering committee would try to meet before Christmas.