Presentation about East Timor
A presentation about East Timor attracted nearly 50 CWA members and guests to the Woy Woy CWA rooms on Saturday, March 3.
The event was organised by the CWA Northumberland Group's international officer Ms Carmen Dewar.
Guest speakers were Rosie Bekker and Ollie Howes from Willoughby Friends of East Timor and Sister Susan Connelley from Mary MacKillop East Timor Mission.
The country is one of Australia's closest neighbours, being only 55 minutes flying time from Darwin.
In 2006, it was ranked 146 out of 177 countries in human development and is still South East Asia's poorest country
It has been under almost continual occupation by Portugal, Japan or Indonesia until in 1999, when it voted for independence from Indonesia.
Following the vote, and prior to the Indonesian withdrawal, the infrastructure was completely destroyed by elements associated with the Indonesian Army.
Ms Bekker spoke at length about the enormous problems confronting the country, including the lack of infrastructure, food, very low levels of literacy and high birth rate (5.1 children per family).
An informative DVD prepared by Ollie Howes showed destroyed homes, hospitals, schools, and the shocking road conditions, including a main road across the mountains which takes a day to travel although only 20 miles long.
"I've never found so many people laughing when they have such great problems" said Mr Howes.
Sister Susan Connelley from Mary MacKillop East Timor Mission gave a brief history of East Timor from its time of occupation by Portugal in the 16th century to present times.
The Mission has prepared over 90 primary school books written in Tetun (the country's common language) which enables school children to learn to read in the language that they hear spoken every day.
The books are relevant to every day events in the children's lives such as fishing, picking coffee and home life.
She discussed at length the Timor Gap legislation between Indonesia, Australia and East Timor and problems associated with the legislation and other associated acts since its original enactment.
"The people of East Timor were wonderful friends to us during World War II and we should take every opportunity to repay their friendship," said Sister Susan.
She went on to say that the people don't want hand outs, but hand ups, particularly in education, and Australia could, and should, provide far more educational opportunities for East Timor people.
"CWA is one the many Australian organisations who have taken East Timor to their heart and I congratulate you," she concluded.