Study tour to Timor Leste
I was lucky enough to be asked to represent the Maritime Union at the Apheda Timor-Leste Study Tour in August.
First on the agenda was a visit the Apheda office at the KBH (Knua Buka Hatene) building. This building was made with the support of the CFMEU in 2001 providing Timorese workers training in building at the same time. The rest of the afternoon we had a tour of Dili through the city and up through the hills.
The Labour Advocacy Institute of Timor-Leste (LAIFET) is a partner organisation of Apheda and our second day started off with a tour to one of their projects; a carpentry workshop run by Clemente at the LAIFET office.
Clemente's business has done so well now he no longer needs their assistance and has taken it upon himself to help train others in carpentry so they can start their own business.
We the visited radio Lorico Lian a community broadcast station in Dili. These proud volunteers broadcast news, current affairs and educational programs up to 16 hours a day.
Then we were onto Liquica to a community learning centre (CLC) where the locals had built a mini restaurant called Steve after a 2008 tour study member who past away. The total cost to build the restaurant was $106 dollars which the tour donated last year. The meals they serve are all local dishes. The community group also would also like to organise a program for chicken farming to provide poultry ingredients for use in the restaurant.
Day three started off with a briefing on history and culture and language from the Apheda program coordinator for Timor-Leste Elisabeth Lino de Araujo. It was disappointing to hear that domestic violence is a big problem in the poorer communities.
Our first meeting was with Vice Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres who has also previously been ambassador to the United Nations. He touched on the point that just about every family in Timor has had a family member jailed or killed in their fight for independence.
He also informed us that at the moment Timor is currently getting its power from diesel generators and they hope to have a national power grid set up 2012.
After the visit we were off to meet with Mr Alfredo Pires, Secretary of State for Natural Resources. He had the duty to put together policies and programs to manage Timor-Leste's oil. And also to ensure Timor can get the maximum benefit from its resources in the Timor Sea.
Following our meeting with Pires we met with Abreu Ximenes Correia the Secretariat of State for Vocational Training and Employment. His group were very busy as they were setting up a system for base standards in qualifications for construction, hospitality and tourism just to name a few.
Day four we set off for Baucau, a 150k trip which takes us four hours as the bumpy road follows the coastal landscape with the likeness of the Great Ocean Road.
Just outside of Baucau we visited a women's literacy group; Timor-Leste has a high rate of illiteracy in rural areas. The women attend a class once a week for three hours and seeing the face of the husbands who were in attendance at the meeting they are very proud and supportive of the progress of the literacy group. Construction was nearly complete on a new building for the group as for the past three years the classes have been held at the teachers own home.
On our return trip from Baucau to Dili we called past a community learning centre in Metinaro and the group that stood out most to me was a class of girls who after their normal day of schooling would come to the community centre and want to educate themselves more in their own time.
Our last day of meetings was the trade union confederation of Timor-Leste (KSTL) where we met Zito da Costa (President)and Rigo Monterio (General Secretary) and were told of the ongoing development of membership and OH&S training for the members of the unions that are affiliated with KSTL. There are only seven unions that make up the confederation, (ETTU) Teachers Union, (UGTL) General Workers Union, (AETL) Nurses Union, (SFP-TL)Public Sector Union,(UCTL)Construction Union,(SATL)Agricultural Union & (SMET-TL)Maritime, Energy, and Transport Union.
After lunch it was a meeting with President Dr. Jose Ramos Horta who talked about some projects that were soon to be underway. One he mentioned was of housing projects and was keen for the support from the Timor-Leste trade union movement. To also help combat the rise of youth unemployment was the government's major infrastructure projects on roads. He also spoke of being in Australia in the mid seventies to seek help from our trade union movement in Timor's struggle for independence.