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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 5 Hansard (10 May) . . Page.. 1479..


MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

coming back with these kids for the Kanga Cup in 2000 or 2001. Half of the team were orphans. They were an under-14 team and competed in our Kanga Cup.

Our former colleague from the last Assembly Helen Cross also had a very great interest in East Timor. Some other members of our community who are deserving of note are Wendy and Robert Altamore, whom a lot of us would know through Print Handicapped Radio. Rob Altamore is an inspiration for blind people throughout the ACT and everywhere. Wendy is a fantastic, tireless worker for very many community causes. Members will often, no doubt, get letters from the Altamores, from Wendy in particular, to come to functions to support East Timor.

The friendship relationship we have with East Timor is important. When Australia went in there, it was one of our better moments in the last 20 years or so. It was going to be a long-haul type of situation, and we should be in the long haul, too, in assisting the people of East Timor with the city of Canberra friendship relationship. There is a bit of shame about what happened in 1975. Obviously that is behind us now. Certainly the events of 1999 have expunged that. We have certainly played a major role, as Australians but also to an extent as Canberrans, especially through the AFP, in the setting up of East Timor. It is something we should continue to do. We certainly should reaffirm our commitment to the city of Canberra friendship relationship with Dili.

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (3.57), in reply: I thank all members for their contribution to this motion. There is a Chinese proverb about education. It says, "Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand."It is clear that, through its activities, the Tuggeranong consortium is about involving students, teachers and principals so that they may understand.

At their meeting last week, the consortium heard from the Timor-Leste ambassador to Australia, Dr Hernani Filomena Coelho da Silva, about the realities of school life for the majority of East Timorese. He explained to the consortium how facilities that we take for granted in Australia are a rare commodity for most households over there. He said, for example, that teachers in Dili do not even have a cupboard to store their materials, let alone lighting for evening courses.

It is true that the material confronting the consortium was heavy and challenging to hear, especially for those children involved. It takes a lot of courage to acknowledge privilege and to make a commitment to use that privilege to the benefit of others. But the day was not without some insight into the rich culture of Timor-Leste. Ambassador Coelho da Silva explained to the group the authentic East Timorese wine made from the root of the palm tree, Tua Metan, although I hope the students are not able to pick up on this comparison with the Australian cab sav for at least a couple of years.

The enthusiasm of the students and their teachers is something we should all draw inspiration from. Despite the enormity of the task, this consortium has taken the responsibility of establishing real support for Timor-Leste schools with gusto. The same has to be said for the efforts of the men and women directly involved at CIT with their continued support of the Dili institute of technology. Their assistance, from providing materials to actively pursuing student involvement in the Australian youth ambassadors for development project, demonstrates that all tiers of education in the ACT have a sense of social justice and conscience.


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