Monday, September 14, 2009

Visit to Balibo June 2009

REPORT ON TRIP TO TIMOR LESTE - JUNE 2009 – Rob Hudson, Chairman, Balibo House Trust, Member Friends of Balibo

I travelled to Timor Leste, (East Timor) for six days from the 24th June to 4th July, 2009 as Chair of the Balibo House Trust. The purpose of the visit was to meet with Trust partners World Vision Timor Leste, Belun and the Balibo House Community Learning Centre Community Management Committee to develop a forward plan and funding agreements for the Balibo CLC for the next three years.

I was accompanied on the trip by Damien Kingsbury, Trust Board Member and Convenor of the Friends of Balibo Network and Rae Kingsbury, Convenor, Australian Timor-Leste Friendship Network.



We first met with World Vision Timor-Leste (WVTL) National Director Stephen Harries, and ADP Program Officer, Try Laksano Harysantoso.

For the last six years the Balibo House Trust has formed a partnership for the delivery of programs and services at the Balibo CLC with World Vision Australia and World Vision Timor-Leste. In June 2008, WVLT indicated that it would be ending its association with the Balibo CLC and refocussing its efforts on maternal and child health, nutrition, water, sanitation and agricultural programs.

At that time, WVTL agreed that it would provide transitional funding to support the Balibo CLC until September 2009 and would facilitate a transition to a new partnership between Belun, the local Community Management Committee and the Trust. The main purpose of the meeting was to finalise these transitional arrangements.

There was a wide ranging discussion about the activities of the Balibo CLC.

Try Laksano made the following observations:

 The Balibo CMC has rented two rooms in the CLC to Belun. One is used by Belun as an office and the other is used by the worker, Serpa dos Santos, to sleep in during the week. On the weekends he returns home to Maliana.

 There is still a need to build the capacity of the Balibo CLC Community Management Committee in financial matters. One of the barriers is that a number of the CMC are civil servants and therefore do not have a lot of spare time to devote to the CLC.

 There is the potential for the Balibo CLC to look at income generation opportunities in areas such as providing facilities for local events and parties. This could include the hire of chairs, crockery, kitchen utensils, marquees and a generator.

 The young people’s music band that operates from the house and plays at parties needs an electronic keyboard to complement the guitars provided by Paul Stewart.

 The furniture workshop and the motor mechanics workshop are going well and have made a profit of US$500 since October 2008. There is the potential to expand this source of income generation. There are five regular participants in the furniture making workshop and seven in mechanics.

 The sewing machines are being taken out from the Balibo CLC and sewing classes are being provided in the outlying villages.

 There is a need for a permanent house toilet.

 The water pump for the well doesn’t work and needs to be replaced.

 The library needs some new books for children. One possible source could be CARE International (near the Biro Pite Health Clinic in Dili), which has a monthly magazine for children.

 There is a strong local desire for English classes, but appropriate English teachers willing to come to Balibo are hard to find.

 Opportunities to sell the Balibo movie DVD from the house should be explored following the general release of the movie. The Trust should also look at an audio visual display in the memorial section of the house and the production of a local tourist brochure.

 There is a need for a new, more powerful diesel generator which would be cheaper to run. For 8 hours a day, the current generator costs about US$450 per month to run.

The main outcomes from the meeting were:

 WVTL agreed to purchase a new, more powerful generator for the Balibo CLC from the available transitional funds.

 WVTL agreed that even though the Balibo CLC Budget was underspent, all the remaining funds would be applied to Balibo CLC programs and activities.


We also met with Luis Ximenes, Director, Rebecca Engel, Principal Adviser, Andrew Marriott, Program Manager and Dominica, Finance Administrator, at Belun.

Belun specialises in building the capacity of civil society in areas such as organisation, finance, administration and leadership.

The main purpose of the meeting was to discuss how the transitional arrangements from World Vision East Timor to Belun were proceeding, future funding for the Balibo CLC and a possible Memorandum of Understanding, (see Appendix B), between Belun and the Balibo House Trust.

At the meeting we were informed that:

 The current operational Budget of the Balibo CLC is US$21, 911. Belun contributes 50% of this funding and WVTL 50%. WVTL also currently provides a car and pays for a security guard at the House.

 The four volunteer Program Managers at the Balibo CLC receive some payment from Belun, (5% of income generation activities). The Trainers are paid US$80 per month.

 Computer training is provided free for 3 months. After this there is a small charge.

 The worker based at the Balibo CLC, Serpa Dos Santos, spends around 75% of his time on Community Learning Centre activities. The remainder of the time he works on land title issues and conflict resolution as part of the Early Warning and Response (EWAR) conflict resolution program run by Belun.

 Belun cancels training for the Balibo CMC if Committee Members are unable to attend. A number of the civil servants on the Committee often get caught up on government business.

 It is not yet clear what the programmatic sources of funds for the Balibo CLC from the Government of Timor-Leste could be. Possibilities in the future could be the Civil Society Program from the Ministry of Justice or the Decentralisation Program. However, this will not be rolled out until well after the local government elections and new local administration is established. Another possible source of funds could be AusAID.

 The crèche, including its roof, needs refurbishment. Belun tried to obtain funding from UNIMET for this, but was referred back to the Department of Education. At this point the proposal has not been funded.

A draft of the proposed MOU between Belun and the Balibo House Trust was subsequently discussed with Rebecca Engel and Luis Ximenes, (see Appendix 1).


We held a meeting with Mr Abelio Caetano, Director of State Administration in the Government of Timor-Leste.

The main purpose of the meeting was to discuss the possibility of utilising former administrative buildings or land at or near the old Portuguese fort in Balibo to provide visitor accommodation.

The Director indicated he was supportive of this proposal, as did the Minister for State Administration, Archangelo Leite, in a subsequent discussion.
A subsequent meeting was held with Mr Domingos, the District Administrator for Bobonaro, and Mr Paulo Soares, the Sub-District Administrator for Balibo, on the visit to the Balibo CLC.

The Sub District Administrator revealed that the former administration buildings at the fort were occupied by sub-district administration workers, although it was not clear on what basis.

However, land on which government buildings had previously stood below the fort as well as land with a burnt out building and on the opposite hill adjacent to the square were identified as suitable for constructing new visitor accommodation.

Local Council Elections – December 2009

Following Local Council election in November, there will be two elected leaders in the Bobonaro District; the Mayor and the President of the Local Assembly, who will be elected by the Councillors. The elected Mayor in effect replaces the District Administrator. Councillors themselves will be elected from a list provided by the competing political parties at the elections.

It is anticipated that Local Councils will have three sources of income: per capita funding, tied grants and council rates. Other sources will include the funding that is provided by Friendship Groups.

Local government will provide:

 basic health services such as community health, immunisation and child health, but not medical clinics
 Water and sanitation
 Core administrative functions

Education services and programs will continue to be delivered by the government of Timor-Leste.


A meeting was also held with the Chair of the Balibo CLC Community Management Committee, (CMC), Rogerio Gonscalves, some CMC members and the local Belun worker, Serpa Dos Santos.

The main purpose of the meeting was to discuss the current program of activities at the Balibo CLC, discuss the next three year Strategic Plan and inspect the CLC and possible sites for visitor accommodation in Balibo.

At the meeting we were informed that:

 The current number of regular participants in Balibo CLC programs is: computer training-24; carpentry and furniture making-5; motor mechanics-7; sewing classes-10; the crèche- 40 to 50. (Since the visit, 8 new computers with new software, training, maintenance and support have been installed by Info East Timor, funded by the Trust).

 In relation to the crèche, there is a need to provide toys and other educational materials for the children and to refurbish the building and playground. At the moment there are some problems with adjacent building works that are spilling over into the crèche playground.

 The CMC would be interested in the proposed visitor accommodation at Balibo. The CMC indicated that it could also provide overnight accommodation for outlying villagers who come some distance to the CLC for training and cannot return home in one day.

 The Balibo CMC is elected for two years until October 2010. The CMC were concerned that if they prepared a 3 year Strategic Plan for the CLC they may not be around to implement it after new elections in October 2010. Nevertheless, the CMC agreed to prepare such a Plan outlining their priorities in conjunction with Belun.

 The CMC were interested in becoming incorporated as an NGO in 2010.


A meeting was held with Glenda Laslett, the AVI Country Manager for Timor Leste in Dili, to talk about the possibility of basing an AVI volunteer at the Balibo CLC.

There are currently 17 AVI volunteers in Timor-Leste. Each volunteer costs AVI around $25,000 per annum. AVI provides each volunteer with a living allowance and an accommodation allowance.

Each volunteer also needs infrastructure support, including transportation, a secure place to live and desirably, email capacity.

Glenda stressed that an AVI volunteer in Balibo would need to be self sufficient, used to working with minimal contact with other westerners in remote locations. Training and organisational support skills are also necessary.

Glenda was replaced by Martina Shanahan on July 6th 2009. Martina has previously worked in Southern Sudan, Uganda, Sri Lanka and conducted civil society work with the support of Irish Aid.


To be sustainable in the long term, the Balibo CLC needs four key ingredients:

1. Community buy–in and ownership by local people in the Balibo sub-district.

2. A plan with a vision and a strategy that is jointly shared by the Balibo House Trust, the Community Management Committee and Belun.

3. An external focus on the needs of the village of Balibo and the surrounding sub-district.

4. A sustainable organisational and funding model.


That the Balibo House Trust:

1. Finalise the draft Memorandum of Understanding with its partners, Belun and the Balibo CLC Community Management Committee.

2. Work with Belun and the Community Management Committee to finalise a Strategic Plan for the Balibo CLC by December 2009.

3. Work with its partners to source funds for the refurbishment of the crèche building and playground as soon as possible.

4. Work its partners and the governments of Timor Leste and Victoria to establish visitor accommodation at Balibo.

5. Negotiate with Australian Volunteers International for the placement of a volunteer with the Balibo CMC.




The Balibo Community Management Committee (CMC), Belun and the Balibo House Trust agree to work in partnership with the Balibo community for the next four years up to October 2013.

The Balibo CMC, Belun and the Balibo House Trust will jointly work to develop a Strategic Plan for the development of the Balibo Community Learning Centre over the next four years.

Work on the Plan will be initiated by the Balibo CMC in partnership with Belun in August 2009.

Final agreement on the Plan will be reached between all three parties by December 2009.

Each party to this agreement makes the following commitments:


The Balibo House Trust is committed to work with the people of the Balibo Sub-District in accordance with the Trust’s purposes, (see Appendix A).

The Balibo House Trust is committed to provide all funding necessary for the maintenance and refurbishment of the Balibo CLC and its associated grounds and buildings.

The Balibo House Trust will provide funding for new capital equipment and buildings jointly agreed between the Trust, the Balibo CMC and Belun.

The Balibo House Trust will work with the Department of State Administration in Timor Leste, the Balibo CMC and Belun to build an accommodation facility that could assist in providing accommodation for visiting CLC participants from the surrounding Balibo Sub District, the Belun staff member and other visitors to the area.

The Balibo Houst Trust will seek interim support for Belun and the CMC during the strategic planning phase after which any recurrent costs will need to be generated by Belun with the support of Balibo House Trust.


The Balibo CMC, with the support of Belun will engage with and consult the villages of the Balibo Sub-District to ascertain their priorities for the work of the Community Learning Centre and will wherever feasible incorporate them into the four year Strategic Plan.

The Balibo Management Committee will adjust and/or revise its organisational procedures and by-laws necessary for good governance of the Balibo CLC and as a result of its community consultation process.

The Balibo CMC will maintain the Community Learning Centre in good order and provide a security guard to protect the assets of the CLC at night.

The Balibo CMC will make every effort to ensure that the CLC is opened during the day for visiting tourists.

The Balibo CMC will provide an office in the CLC for the use of Belun at an agreed yearly rental.

The Balibo CMC will explore further opportunities for income generation through the activities of the Balibo CLC.

The Balibo CMC will conduct elections for positions on the Management Committee every two years in accordance with its organisational procedures and by-laws.


Belun is committed to work with the people of the Balibo Sub-District in accordance with Belen’s strategic plan for the Conflict Early Warning and Response Program in the District, (see attachment).

Belun, with the support of the Balibo House Trust, will facilitate a strategic planning process with the CMC and in consultation with the Balibo Sub-District community.

Belun will seek to secure and provide funding to meet the recurrent costs of the Balibo CLC in accordance with the agreed Strategic Plan and Budget.

The funding will be at least equivalent to the current Budget for the Balibo CLC for the year September 2008 to September 2009.

Belun will provide at least one part-time staff member to support the work of the Balibo CLC and help facilitate decision-making and the implementation of decisions by the Balibo CMC.

Belun will facilitate organizational development workshops/ training opportunities for the CMC and Learning Centre program staff on finance, administration, leadership and conflict prevention and resolution.

No comments: