This web site provides a record of the University of Notre Dame Australia East Timor Project managed by the Edmund Rice Centre. The Edmund Rice Centre is now independent of the University of Notre Dame and this project is no longer collecting donations. For current information see the Bakhita Project.
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Timor Loro Sae (East Timor) Humanitarian Aid and Development Programme

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After the result of the Independence vote in East Timor was announced on the 5th of September 1999, the country and people were systematically destroyed by a combination of Indonesian military and local militia groups.

In the ensuing months the country has stabilised and the international community has moved to respond to the tremendous need for both emergency aid and long term rebuilding and development.

The Australian community has responded to this call with a variety of programs and initiatives, many of which have come through existing humanitarian organisations.

The University of Notre Dame Australia is also mounting a humanitarian effort, and will become the first Australian University to actively address the educational needs of the people of East Timor.

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East Timorese History - A Timeline

1504 - 1974

Colonial occupation by Portuguese


Portuguese withdraw due to continuing unrest


Portuguese return to Timor
Ongoing struggle between Portuguese, Timorese and Dutch.


Portuguese and Dutch divide country in half


Catholic Church entrusted with responsibility for education
400 Australian and other allied troops enter Timor in reaction to Pearl Harbour bombing.
Japanese invade Timor.


Timorese continue to guide and fight beside Australian soldiers until withdrawal that year. Timorese continue to resist Japanese occupation on Australia's last line of defence - 60 000 lives lost during the war years.


Japanese defeated.


Portuguese reassert their control.


East Timorese given opportunity to carve a pathway to their own independence. Indonesia invades -estimates of 100 000 Timorese killed

1975 - 1999

Continuous unrest due to political oppression by the Indonesian military. Australia recognises Indonesian's occupation of East Timor.


Australia reverses its position and states that East Timor has a right to self-determination. Ballot held - 78% of registered voters choose independence. Indonesian backed militias begin mass destruction of country. Interfet forces arrive and begin stabilisation process.


25 years of occupation and resistance have left the people and land in tatter. The challenging process of rebuilding begins.

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Program Overview

Students and staff from the University of Notre Dame Australia will set out on a four-week trip to rural the communities of Ainaro, Viqueque and Letefoho. During the four weeks the students will live with the people and aid in teaching English to young adults and school teachers. The students will be working with a small Western Australian based aid agency Leeuwin Care.

The students will be divided into smaller groups, and will live in the three communities for four weeks. The program's humanitarian response to the situation in East Timor is at a grassroots level; addressing needs as identified by the local people. To this end, the primary focus of the group will be teaching English to the older youth and teachers in the community. Additionally, the student group will help with the development of community-based sports and recreation programs.

The academic component of the program will focus on:

  • Teaching English as a Second Language
  • Learning the Native East Timorese Language - Tetum
  • Community Development, Theory and Practices
  • Social Justice and Human Rights.

The University will make a five-year commitment to the three communities.

There will be opportunities for students to return to East Timor after graduation for six to twelve months to continue working with the communities.

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The Villages

(A very good PDF map of East Timor can be downloaded from the UNTAET web site)


Ainaro is an agricultural community five hours drive south of Dili. Once a major producer of maize, rice, coffee, cabbages, potatoes and carrots, it suffered terribly during the violence and agricultural production was seriously disrupted. There has been a significant displacement of the population and the destruction of basic amenities has resulted in unsanitary living conditions and a desperate need for medical attention. The number of orphans has escalated due to the brutal oppression inflicted on parents who dared to stand up for their rights and the confusion created by the recent violence and turmoil.


Letefoho is a small mountain community situated a short distance, but an arduous journey, north-east of Bobonaro. This is an agricultural region whose main product is maize. Because the area was a centre for the activities of 'freedom fighters' during the conflict, the damage has been severe. The result has been the displacement of the great majority of the population and the total destruction of basic infrastructure such as roads, water resources and schools. Additionally, agricultural seed and plant were burnt leaving many communities in despair for the upcoming season. Due to the displacement of the population many children have been orphaned or separated from home or parents. These children are the future of East Timor and this is where our attention will be focused.


Viqueque is a comparatively large village located near the south-east coast. Viqueque was not damaged as much as western areas but the population was displaced by forced movement into neighbouring West Timor. Because of Viqueque's relative distance from the centres of violence it has been recognised as a safe haven for many orphaned children cared for by Catholic nuns. The work done here by the church plays an important part in providing basic humanitarian needs and education to a large number of orphaned children.

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The Organisations

The University of Notre Dame Australia

The University of Notre Dame Australia is a Catholic University established in 1990. The University is situated in the west-end of the historic port city of Fremantle. The university also a campus in Broome. UNDA attracts students from a range of ethnic and religious backgrounds with a wide variety of degrees, diplomas and certified courses which are recognised nationally and internationally. As part of their experience at the university, students are encouraged to take part in voluntary service activities in the local community and further afield. These programs aim to develop self-confident individuals who remain committed to social justice and community service throughout their lives.

The Edmund Rice Centre.

The Edmund Rice Centre promotes a sense of social responsibility, acceptance and belonging through community service learning activities for students and staff of the University of Notre Dame Australia.

The Centre for Social Ministry has been established through the generosity of the Christian Brothers. It is an experiential learning, teaching and research Centre that promotes a commitment to social justice among staff and students. It provides students, faculty and others connected to the University with the opportunity to critically examine social justice issues within the context of community service activities.

Through the Edmund Rice Centre, Notre Dame has become the first university in Australia to aid the people of East Timor at the grass roots level - an effort that has been warmly welcomed by the locals. The Director of the Centre, Professor Peter Harney, hopes that the efforts will add to the lives of the people of East Timor and contribute to the education of students and staff involved.

Leeuwin Care

Leeuwin Care is an aid organisation formed by a group of volunteers who met at the Leeuwin Barracks and were inspired by the courage of the East Timorese refugees staying there, particularly the children. The organisation is comprised of East Timorese expatriates and Australians who are dedicated to providing for the needs of orphans and families in the remote communities of East Timor. Leeuwin Care currently has four dedicated workers operating In East Timor delivering aid and supplies to the interior towns and villages. These workers are supported by the organisation's base in Perth, which raises funds and collects, sorts and delivers goods and supplies.

Leeuwin Care is dedicated to the vision of housing, health and education for the orphan children and to a safe and prosperous future for the emerging nation of East Timor.

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The Edmund Rice Centre is a registered Australian charity. Donations are tax deductible.

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