Balibó, Timor-Leste (2017)

In May 2016, the Council agreed to commence investigations into a community development based relationship with a city in the Asia Pacific region. A visit to Hobart from the Ambassador for Timor-Leste for Australia, Mr Abel Guterres, in September 2017 promoted discussions around a potential project based relationship with Balibó.

Balibó is known by many as the site of the killing on October 16, 1975 of five Australian-based journalists known as the Balibo Five during an incursion by Indonesian forces into, what was then, Portuguese Timor. Indonesian occupation of Portuguese Timor was, after much bloodshed, achieved in 1976.

1. Balibó - Balibó Flag House where the journaist stayed and which now serves as a community learning centre - Balibo House Trust..jpeg
Balibo Flag House - Balibo House Trust

In the early 90’s East Timor started calling for independence from Indonesian rule. The 1999 referendum on independence resulted in widespread violence with an estimated 70 per cent of Balibó town destroyed as a result. With independence, in 2002, followed internal power struggles, factional fighting, violence and displacement of thousands of families. In 2006 the United Nations sent in peace keeping forces to maintain order, eventually handing operational control over to the Timor-Leste police in 2012. 

With the ongoing turmoil, Timor-Leste has struggled to meet the needs of its people. Widespread poverty, and considerable health, environmental and educational deficits are causing extensive difficulties for the people of this small country.

 3. Balibo by Leslie Godfrey.jpg
Balibo - Leslie Godfrey

A small delegation of City of Hobart officers and Aldermen visited Timor-Leste in January 2018 alongside Dr Nitin Verma – the Honorary Consul to the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste in Tasmania. The delegation met with numerous government officials and aid agencies in Dili and travelled to Balibó where they met with a number of community members, including the Village Chief and the Sub-District Administrator. Detailed discussions were held at this time about difficulties and future challenges for the village.

In April 2018, following the delegation’s visit to Balibo and further research, the Council resolved to commit to a long-term relationship with the village of Balibó. Investigations into potential projects are currently being undertaken.