Saturday, September 4, 2010

Balibo Fort House progress

Following visits in June and August 2010, plans for visitor accommodation at the Balibo Fort have commenced. First mooted during a visit in December 2008, plans for a homestay in Balibo supported by the Friends of Balibo has morphed into a guest house in the historic Balibo fort and again into a small hotel located within the fort grounds, including the original fort house. A 30 year (15+15) lease was signed with the Ministry of Justice by Balibo House Trust chair and Victorian MP Rob Hudson, securing the fort site for redevelopment. Professor Damien Kingsbury signed the design contract with Community Housing Limited in the office of the Minister of Justice, Lucia Lobato, in Dili in June 2010.

A series of consultations have taken place with community leaders in Balibo, including the Bobonaro District Administrator, Snr Domingos Martins, the Balibo Sub-District Administrator, Snr Paulo dos Santos, village chiefs from Balibo and surrounding villages and a number of other local community figures. The project will initially employ and train between 15 and 20 local people for the period of construction of the project and will provide continuing employment in support capacities and tourism development following its completion.

Professor Damien Kingsbury and Dr Grazyna Zajdow both attended the August community meeting on behalf of the Friends of Balibo and the Balibo House Trust. Their visit to Balibo preceded their attendance, with Snrs Martins and dos Santos at the 'Strengthening Friendship: People to People/Haforza Amizade: Husi Povo ba Povo' conference, hosted by the Timor-Leste Ministry of State Administration and the Australia Timor-Leste Friendship Network in Maubisse on 27-28 August 2010.

Initial funds for the project have been raised by the Balibo House Trust

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