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Friends of Aileu

Friends of Aileu is the friendship relationship between:

  • Moreland City Council and Hume City Council, along with their communities
  • the Timor-Leste municipality of Aileu and its people.

Established under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in May 2000, the friendship relationship's commitments are outlined in its Friendship Agreement. As part of the Victorian Government's program of cooperation with the Government of Timor-Leste, both councils have also entered into Municipal Coorperation Agreements with the Timor-Leste Ministry of State Administration. The Moreland Municipal Coorperation Agreement and the Hume Municipal Coorporation Agreement both provide a framework for the support provided to the Municipality of Aileu during the Timor-Leste Government decentralisation process and the transition to responsible, elected local government.

Currently, there are 32 friendship groups registered with the Australia Timor-Leste Friendship Network. 18 of these are linked to Victorian local government councils. Moreland and Hume were among the first councils to formalise their friendship relationship, along with Darebin, Yarra and Port Philip.

The friendship relationship is based around the following principles:

  • Relationships: building partnerships based on mutual understanding and respect
  • Sustainability: committing to a long-term relationship
  • Respect: supporting Timorese-led decision making.

Engaging in the spirit of friendship, we participate in activities that support the municipality and people of Aileu to develop their local democracy and seek a more sustainable future. We focus on education and training, community health and the environment, and specifically aim to address participation by women and youth. The Friends of Aileu Strategy Plan provides more detail about how we make these activities happen.

The friendship relationship reflects and builds on the strong links between the people of Australia and Timor-Leste. These links have been developed and strengthened over decades of support and solidarity, particularly during periods of war, occupation and subsequent peacekeeping.

  • Timor-Leste, which became an independent nation in 2002, is one of Australia's closest neighbours. In fact, its capital Dili is only 720km from Darwin. Timor-Leste is home to 1.2 million people (2015 census). Over 70% of these people live in rural areas. Both the rural and urban population of Timor-Leste engage in agriculture and livestock rearing.

    The official languages of Timor-Leste are Portuguese and Tetun. However, many people speak Indonesian and increasing numbers speak English, both of which are recognised as working languages.

    The Aileu Municipality is a largely mountainous area inland immediately south of Dili and the municipal centre is a small town less than 20 kilometres directly south of Dili, reached by a 45-kilometre drive through forest, farmland and coffee groves.

    Aileu is one of Timor-Leste's 13 municipalities or administrative sub-divisions (formerly called districts). It is home to 49,000 people (2015 census). Almost all households in Aileu depend on agriculture or livestock raising.

    Timor-Leste's municipalities are gradually growing their service delivery and governance responsibilities as part of the decentralisation process. Over the coming years, the Government of Timor-Leste plans to transition the municipalities to fully responsible local government entities with elected assemblies.

    Read more about historical relationship between Australia and Timor-Leste

Friends of Aileu community committee

The Friends of Aileu Community Committee helps inform the decision making of Moreland City Council and Hume City Council regarding the friendship relationship with Aileu. The Committee provides opportunities for community input and gives regular feedback to Council.

The Committee also works with both Councils and partner organisations to deliver projects and activities, and provides fundraising and donation advice.

Regular meetings are held bi-monthly. Meetings will be scheduled in advance and agendas circulated at least one week prior to the meeting.

Activities are coordinated by our Friends of Aileu Project Officer, together with the Friends of Aileu Community Committee and partner organisations in Australia and Timor-Leste. This is also made possible with the support of interested community members and local organisations and businesses.


The friendship relationship with Aileu is made possible with the help of our partners.

Get involved with Friends of Aileu

We welcome the participation of all community members in the friendship relationship, particularly those who live, work or study in Moreland and Hume.

We invite community members to participate in the Friends of Aileu Community Committee, assist in fundraising and awareness-raising activities, contribute their expertise and generally broaden their knowledge of Timor-Leste and Aileu.

  • You can contribute to the friendship relationship by:

    • helping to staff information stalls at community events
    • submitting ideas for awareness-raising or fundraising
    • assisting at fundraising events, such as our annual Trivia Night
    • contacting local organisations and businesses that may be interested in assisting with fundraising
    • contributing articles to the quarterly newsletter
    • hosting visitors from Timor-Leste
    • communicating with our friends in Aileu and helping with the management of friendship activities there
    • becoming a member of the Friends of Aileu Community Committee.

    Our relationship with Aileu also provides opportunities for new and enduring friendships, formed through sharing stories, food, music and culture.

    If you are interested in volunteering to help with Friends of Aileu activities or projects, contact the Project Officer.

    You can also register your interest by completing our volunteer form:

  • You may want to make either a general or project-specific donation to Friends of Aileu. Read about our projects in our projects section below. You can also purchase and send a gift certificate donation for your choice of project.

    All funds donated to Friends of Aileu are transferred to Timor-Leste partners to support agreed projects in Aileu. At this stage tax deductibility is not available.

    For information about how to make a donation, see the below guidelines or contact the Project Officer.

  • You can also support Friends of Aileu by purchasing some delicious Wild Timor Coffee! It is available in 200 gram packs (ground or beans) for $13. You can purchase it from our Customer Service Centres or directly from the Project Officer.

    Alternatively, buy Wild Timor Coffee online or in-store, and a part of your purchase will be used to support Wild Timor coffee's own social programs in Aileu and elsewhere in Timor-Leste.

Friends of Aileu Projects

Find out about the projects and programs we programs we support in collaboration with our partners in Aileu.

  • Established in 2004, the Aileu University Scholarship Program was inspired by the late Councillor Andy Ingham, who was the inaugural Chair of the Friends of Aileu. Cr Ingram had a passion for education and made the first friendship visit to Aileu in April 2000. He cared deeply about Timor-Leste and wanted to support the people of this new nation in establishing peace, independence and happiness. Cr Ingram's trip in 2000 instilled in him a desire to improve training and education facilities and to provide opportunities for capacity-building for the people of Timor-Leste.

    The Scholarship Program was built from the scholarship fundraising efforts of Vicki Day, a teacher who undertook the first Australian Volunteers International assignment in Aileu in the early 2000s. Over the period of 2004 to 2016 the program disbursed over $142,000, all raised by community donation and through events such as the annual Trivia Quiz fundraising evening. This helped 110 young people complete many semesters of study at universities in Timor-Leste and Indonesia.

    The comments below from scholarship recipients speak to the value of the Scholarship Program.

    • “This scholarship helped me, even though it was only a bit, but it motivated me to study hard. It increased my capacity to be able to start a group to do voluntary work to improve the economy of the community”
    • “Through this scholarship I was able to continue my studies, because my family finances were not sufficient for me to do so without the scholarship. It is clear that if I hadn't got a scholarship at that time, I wouldn't have been able to find work”
    • “I was able to complete my studies and graduate. I was then able to manage a small business, the Wake-up mini coffee shop”.

    The Scholarship Program was suspended in 2017, but will recommence in 2021 with improved mechanisms for transparency, accountability and student follow up. It will have a greater emphasis on supporting study in areas of identified need.

    The next major fundraising activity for the Aileu University Scholarship Program is the 2021 Trivia Night to held at Coburg Town Hall on Friday 27 August, where we hope to raise over $10,000. See our events section below for more details.

    How to get involved

    • Join us for Trivia Quiz night at 7pm Friday 27 August 2021
    • You may wish to begin organising some friends to make up a table
    • Any help would be most appreciated to source donated items from friends, community members or local businesses for the live auction and silent auction which will be part of of the Trivia night – please contact the Project Officer to discuss.
  • A secondary school scholarship program, operating from 2004 to 2016, assisted 125 young people from Aileu with funding and support for their studies over the final three years of secondary school. The scholarship program finished in 2017 when the Municipal Administrator requested that the funds be used to provide targeted support for improving education in Aileu, rather than for the individual scholarships.

    The available funding (currently $5,300 p.a) is principally sourced from an annual donation from Hume City Council and supplemented by other individual donations. The funding has been re-directed to:

    • paying the fees for selected Aileu students to study at the Baucau Teachers College. Of the six students one has graduated with a 3 year diploma, one has commenced a fourth year for a degree, and 4 are currently working toward a diploma or a degree.
    • supporting an annual Science, Reading and Mathematics Contest for students from Aileu’s 70+ schools, which is organised by the Aileu Resource and Training Centre in collaboration with the Aileu Department of Education and The Asia Foundation
    • supporting the innovative Vida Saudavel (Healthy Life) course delivered by one of the Aileu Maryknoll Sisters with local science teachers, where Year 11 and 12 students and their teachers undertook extra-curricula study in biology and related topics with access to a dedicated laboratory and small school laboratories equipped with microscopes and cameras.

    How to get involved

    • We are particularly interested in engaging with teachers or others in the Moreland and Hume communities with experience in education to help improve our collaboration with educators in Aileu, including in the areas of facility and curriculum development and school gardens – please contact the Project Officer to discuss.
  • We partnered with the Aileu Resource and Training Centre (ARTC) in 2005, initially supporting repairs to the Bibliotek (library) building and the purchase of computers and books.

    The ARTC became a registered association and has gradually expanded its programs. Friends of Aileu has been providing ongoing support for:

    • a staff development program that has provided funding for study support for:
      • two young women from the ARTC to complete Business and Accounting degrees in Indonesia, who then returned to take on management roles with the ARTC
      • one male from the ARTC to complete an IT degree in Dili
      • another woman from the ARTC who is currently completing an Accounting degree in Dili.
    • development of the Centre's IT resources and training courses, its library and an educational exhibition on Timor-Leste's geology and ancient flora and fauna
    • the development of a satellite learning centre by and for the community of Manu Casa and nearby villages in the hills of Lequidoe sub-district
    • the annual Science, Reading and Mathematics contest. The results of this contest are being used to identify strengths and weaknesses in various schools and help decide where any extra education resources can best be targeted
    • the annual Aileu Expo of traditional culture and local produce and products, which is increasingly attracting quality contributions from a wide range of local community organisations and businesses and reaching a wider audience
    • the development of a community peace garden, Kadalak Dame, where staff and local community members are rehabilitating an old coffee plantation, experimenting with different agriculture techniques and creating a quiet space for rest and contemplation. The Kadalak Dame garden has also been a major focus of exchange and mutual learning between the ARTC and its local partners, with visits by CERES Global bringing groups of enthusiastic Australians with diverse interests to Aileu in the past five years

    How to get involved

    We are particularly interested in engaging with people who would like to contribute to developing the relationship with the ARTC and other partners in Aileu, especially those with interests, skills or knowledge in areas such as:

      • IT and business planning and administration
      • community learning activities such as neighbourhood houses and libraries
      • permaculture and other approaches to sustainable and regenerative local agriculture
      • developing economic opportunities, particularly for women
      • sharing music, dance, art and culture
      • participating in activities with youth including sport
      • innovative and fun ways to raised community awareness and funds.
  • We are currently raising funds to support the participation of approximately 50 young people in PERMATIL’s next water resource management camp. PERMATIL, a respected international agriculture and environmental NGO, is an important partner of Friends of Aileu. PERMATIL’s work acknowledges the importance of rural communities having access to reliable, clean water for household and agricultural uses.

    PERMATIL works directly with local village councils and nominated youth leaders to share water conservation knowledge and practices at its training camps. So far, communities that have participated in the training have constructed over 70 effective earthen water-retention and groundwater recharge ponds and minor stream modifications to slow run-off.

    You can help support participation in the training camps.

  • With funds from Merri Health, we have been able to support the Maryknoll Sisters and the Uma Ita Nian Parish Clinic with various projects to aid in income generation for local women. Some of these projects include the construction of a sales kiosk, improving skills and productivity in knitting and sewing, and the development of a wider range of products for local sales.

  • Together with Merri Health and the Campaspe East Timor Association in Friendship, we have supported various projects run by the Aileu District Health Service, the Uma Ita Nian Parish Clinic and the St Francis Assisi Disability Workshop.

    These projects include:

    • the provision of medical and other basic equipment to the Parish Clinic, the District Health Centre and the Disability Workshop
    • the renovation of a building to house midwives, the provision of a vehicle to transport midwives around the District and equipment for the Disability Workshop
    • a number of projects for improving health through better nutrition, including egg, chicken and pig production, soy bean and soy milk production and construction of low-smoke fuel-efficient domestic stoves.
  • In 2012, a new birthing centre was opened in Laulara Sub-District. The building was refurbished and partly equipped with donations from the Friends of Aileu, Friends of Laulara, Merri Health, Campaspe East Timor Association in Friendship, Echuca Hospital, and a number of private donors.

    The Laulara Birthing Centre building project is now completed. Further donations from Friends of Aileu, Merri Health, Wild Timor Coffee, and private individuals enabled the construction of an access pathway and steps, fencing and a landscaped, sheltered external waiting area.

  • Since 2009, we have been supporting the local dental staff and school teachers in Aileu to run oral health awareness training at a local primary school. Eventually, this program was extended to cover a total of six schools which included at least one in each of Aileu's four Administrative Posts.

    The project is coordinated by Professor Martin Hall from Dental Health Services Victoria and Dr Bradley Christian from La Trobe University, Bendigo.

    North Richmond Community Health Centre (NRCH) has supported the project from its inception. Sally Vong, along with other NRCH staff members, has visited Aileu several times to undertake clinical examinations, and liaise with the school principals and the Aileu Health Centre's dental team.

    Other support had been provided by Professor Hany Calache from Deakin University, the Victorian Dental and Health Therapist Association and Colgate Australia, which has donated supplies of toothbrushes and toothpaste.

  • Since 2004, Friends of Aileu has been working with the Alternative Technology Association to install solar lighting systems in public buildings and village households in the Aileu District.

    Over the years, this project has installed solar lighting in thousands of homes and has provided valuable knowledge that has informed other village lighting schemes through Timor-Leste.

  • Friends of Aileu has supported a number of Australian schools to maintain friendships with schools in the Aileu District. These friendships include:

    • Brunswick North West Primary and Sarlala Primary in Aileu Vila Subdistrict
    • Fahan Primary in Sandy Bay, Tasmania and Daisioli Primary in Aileu Vila Subdistrict
    • Echuca West Primary and Bereleu Primary in Lequidoe Subdistrict, and
    • Salesian College in Sunbury and Aileu Senior High School
    • St Augustine’s College in Kyabram and Aileu Technical and Vocational High School
    • St Joseph's College in Echuca and St Peter and Paul's Catholic College in Aileu.

    These schools have exchanged and photos and the Australian schools have raised funds to improve facilities at the schools in Aileu. Year 11 students from St Joseph's College and St Augustine's College have even visited Aileu a number of times to get to know their friendship schools and communities.

    Friends of Aileu and CERES Education are working on the Global Schools project, which will help connect schools in Victoria and Timor-Leste through web-based sharing of stories, experiences and resources.

    If your school would like to know more about participating in the friendship school relationship, you can contact the Project Officer.

Friends of Aileu Events

Upcoming events

Friends of Aileu Community Committee meeting
You are welcome to join us at the bi-monthly metings of the Friends of Aileu Community Committee.

The next meeting is Tuesday 19 October.

For details please email the Project Officer. Please note that until further notice all meetings will be held online.

Subsequent 2021 meeting date:  Tuesday 14 December.

Friends of Aileu Annual Trivia Quiz 2021 - This event, previously planned for Thursday 23 September, has been cancelled due to COVID-19 lockdown

We hope to be able to run a Trivia Quiz fundraiser for the Aileu University Scholarship Programnext year, with a tentative date of Thursday 29 September 2022.

Earlier this year, the Aileu Friendship Commission selected 21 young people from Aileu who have received funding assistance to cover the full cost of their 2021 university fees.  The total amount disbursed for 2021 was $10,000 from funds raised at previous Trivia Quiz fundraisers .

Please conact the Project Officer if you wish to discuss making a donation to go towards continuation of the scholarship program in 2022.

Past events

  • Coburg Town Hall came alive on 7 May 2021, as 100 people came together to celebrate 21 years of friendship with Aileu.

    Moreland Mayor Cr Annalivia Carli Hannan opened the night, launching a history of the relationship Aileu-Moreland-Hume: The Friendship that Binds Us, celebrating the achievements over the past 21 years.

    You can download a copy here: Aileu-Moreland-Hume: The Friendship that Binds Us

    Hard copies of The Friendship that Binds Us are available from the Project Officer Chris Adams.

    A video was screened, conveying messages from the Aileu Municipal Administrator, other officials and community members, in which they congratulated the Friends of Aileu on this milestone and thanked them and the two Councils for their friendship and assistance over the years.

    Rae and Damien Kingsbury spoke about the formation of the friendship relationships starting from 1999, their ongoing value, and some of the challenges ahead for Timor-Leste and Aileu.

    Tmor Oans gave a dynamic and inspiring performance of traditional East Timorese dance and percussion.

    Charlie Harrison and Damian Seddon, of Outer Urban Projects revved up the night further with their rap and hip-hop performances.

    Hume Mayor Cr Joseph Haweil closed out the night with some Thank Yous and reflections on his visit to Aileu in 2019 as part of a the Morleand-Hume-Friends of Aileu delegation.

  • Held at the Hume Global Learning Centre in May 2019, this dinner and forum celebrated the East Timorese people’s choice for independence in 1999 and the subsequent 19 years of friendship between Hume, Moreland and Aileu. Human rights advocate and author Pat Walsh, and local activist and former Councillor Glenyys Romanes were the guest speakers at the event, with participation from many others who make the friendship relationship so special. This was an important opportunity for community members, councillors and Council staff to meet and learn more about Timor-Leste and the value of the friendship and cooperation relationships, which strengthens the relationship.

  • In June 2019, Aileu’s Municipal Secretary, Victoria Mesquita do Rego, visited Melbourne on a two-week friendship and study tour with Friends of Aileu and Hume and Moreland City Councils. During this tour, Victoria met with mayors, councillors, directors, managers and staff at Hume and Moreland, and with Friends of Aileu partner organisations. She also inspected several community facilities and sites. As well as strengthening friendship links with Aileu, the Municipal Secretary's visit contributed to her professional development consistent with the aims of the Municipal Cooperation Agreement. See highlights from the friendship and study tour.

  • On 16 February 2020, Grassroots Gathering, CERES and Friends of Aileu hosted the fourth annual fundraising event for youth led-initiatives in Aileu. The generous support for this event allows Friends of Aileu and partners to continue supporting a range of youth-led development activities in Aileu, with a focus on sustainability, art and sports activities.

  • Over a week in July 2019 a delegation of representatives from Moreland City Council and Hume City Council visited Dili and Aileu. The delegation members met with the Australian Ambassador to Timor-Leste, the Timor-Leste Vice-minister for State Administration, the Aileu Municipal Administrator and other government officials. They also met with members of community organisations in Aileu.

    This visit provided the delegation the chance to see the local conditions, the challenges facing our friendship partners, and the progress that has been made to rebuild their community, infrastructure and economy. The visit gave the delegation a greater understanding of the importance and scope of the Friends of Aileu friendship relationship, which has helped further our work. See highlights from the trip.

  • Over two weeks in July, ten people from around Australia joined CERES Global on a trip to Timor-Leste to continue our engagement with organisations and communities in Dili, Atauro and Aileu. The 2019 CERES Global visit was the fifth in 6 years. These repeat visits have allowed us to form sound relationships with local organisations and communities, and learn more about Timor-Leste while sharing perspectives, skills and resources. See highlights from the trip.

  • The Friends of Aileu Annual Trivia Quiz fundraiser 2019 was held on 16 August 2019 and attracted over 150 guests. The event raised $10,000 for the Aileu University Scholarship Program, which is an important ongoing commitment of the Friends of Aileu project. It is through fundraisers like this event that the Scholarship program can continue to support young people in Aileu to study at university.

  • The Grassroots Gatherings network, working with CERES and Friends of Aileu, presented the 5th annual Gathering for Aileu at CERES on Sunday 28 February.

    Over 250 people of all ages, including members of Melbourne’s East Timorese community, enjoyed an afternoon and evening of music, food, friendship and stories at the CERES Pavilion. The event raised $10,000 to support sustainability activities in Aileu, Timor-Leste, by partners such as PERMATIL, Aileu Municipal Youth Centre and Arte Mambai Rai Husar.

    This year’s event included local up and coming talent alongside experienced performers. Performers included Ray Pereira and friends and the Mystic Trio, and the new Timorese community dance group, Timor Oans (Timor Children). The event speakers included Wurundjeri elder Uncle Bill Nicholson, who gave an inspiring and challenging Welcome to Country. Other speakers at the event were Kirsty Sword Gusmao, Timor-Leste Goodwill Ambassador for Education and founder of Alola Foundation, Tonny Castro, President, East Timorese Students Association (Victoria), and Chico dos Santos, a Moreland early childhood educator.

    Grassroots Gatherings is a non-profit community organisation, encouraging community engagement in solidarity, social justice and sustainability. Since their first Gathering for Aileu in 2017, the group’s capabilities, and the event’s popularity have grown tremendously. The collaboration with Grassroots Gathering is expanding the reach of the Friends of Aileu, Council’s East Timor Partnership Project to a new and younger audience.

    Friends of Aileu, Grassroots Gatherings and CERES are working on ways to build on our partnership. Watch out for an even bigger and better Gathering for Aileu in early 2022.

  • A fund-raising screening of Firestarter, the story of Bangarra Dance Theatre over 30 years, at the Palace Cinema Pentridge in March, raised $1,400.

    This will go towards the $3,700 budgeted to support the Aileu Resource and Training Centre coordinate the 16th annual Aileu Expo .

    More details soon about how we plan to raise the $2,300 balance.

    For further information, or to make a donation, please email the Project Officer Chris Adams.

Friends of Aileu News

Responding to the Easter cyclone damage

Aileu was amongst the areas badly affected by the Easter Cyclone, which brought strong winds, intense rain and devastating floods to much of Timor-Leste, with resultant landslides also destroying many houses, roads and bridges.

The Aileu Municipal Administration, the Aileu Friendship Commission and the Aileu Municipal Youth Centre are working together to coordinate the relief and recovery efforts being undertaken by community members, hamlet and village councils, local community-based organisations,various NGOs and government agencies.

Friends of Aileu made an initial donation of $2,500.  Campaspe Shire Council, Campaspe East Timor Association in Friendship and the Sanringham Sacred Heart Social Justice Group have donated a total of $2,820, while an additional $10,000 has been raised through individual donations (including $1,000 from Wild Timor Coffee) to a public appeal on GoFundMe.

These funds are being progressively sent to Aileu for emergency relief to affected households (e.g. food, blankets, mattresses and temporary shelter or building materials), based on requests considering the ongoing initial needs assessments involving site visits, inspections and the recommendations of village and sub-village chiefs.

We anticipate that further fund-raising requests from Aileu , following more detailed assessments of needs of householders, and to help repair damaged vegetable gardens and rice fields and community assets such as irrigation infrastructure.  

For further information, or to make a donation, please email the Project Officer Chris Adams.

Aileu Municipal Administration, Aileu Friendship Commission and Scholarship Program

We congratulate Mr Abel da Conceicao on his appointment in February this year as Aileu's new Municipal Administrator.  We also thank the outgoing Municipal Administrator Mr Joao Tilman do Rego for his support for the friendship relationship throughout his five-year term. 

Mr Abel is continuing the work commenced by Mr Joao to revitalise and reconvene the Aileu Friendship Commission, which has met several times since August 2020, has with assistance from the Aileu Anan Association and especially the Aileu Municipal Youth Centre, recently completed the review and re-establishment of the Aileu University Scholarship Program and the selection for recipients for 2021. 

Best wishes to twenty-two young people from Aileu, enrolled for study at universities in Dili, who have been selected to share in the $10,000 budgeted for scholarship support for 2021.

Find out more about the Friends of Aileu Trivia Quiz 2021, which will raise funds to enable continued support for the scholarship program in 2022.

Friends of Aileu Newsletters and annual reports

We produce newsletters and reports for the Friends of Aileu partnership.

Please contact the Project Officer if you would like to see a copy of any of the other newsletters, annual reports, reports of visits to Aileu and presentations.