Walking, talking and sharing in Timor-Leste

During the Timor-Leste stint of Indo-Pacific Endeavour (IPE), from July 25-28, Defence personnel took part in a gender peace and security women’s walk, maritime security training, soccer and futsal matches and a visit to an orphanage school.

CAPTIONAn Australian Army Football Northern Territory team member gives a soccer ball to a child from the Santa Teresinha school in Liquiçá, Timor-Leste, during Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2023. Story by Flight Lieutenant Claire Burnet. Photos by Leading Aircraftman Samuel Miller.

Australian Army Chief of Staff Force Command Brigadier Malcolm Wells said Timor-Leste has felt like a second home since 2001, when he was part of the Australian Defence Cooperation Program’s first initiative to build a professional Army for a new nation.

“I made great friends here then and over 20 years ago we shared the challenges of transferring skills to build a new army, so coming back to Timor-Leste now feels like coming home,” Brigadier Wells said.

“To also see how the men I worked with then are now in senior Timor-Leste Defence Force (F-FDTL) leadership positions makes me very proud of what we have done together.”

CAPTIONBrigadier Malcolm Wells talks with the principal of the Santa Teresinha school in Liquiçá, Timor-Leste, during Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2023.

One of his good friends is now the F-FDTL Chief of Navy, Capitao-de-Mar-e-Guerra (Captain of Sea and War) Higino das Neves, who hosted this year’s IPE Timor-Leste opening ceremony and bilateral search-and-rescue maritime security training at Port Hera Naval Base.

At the Borudu Matak Canyon in Balibar, the women’s walk was a rare chance for female members of the F-FDTL, Ministry of Defence and Police to come together.

Facilitated by the Australian Defence Team – Timor-Leste and visiting Australian gender advisers Captains Emma Milner and Tresha Oates, the adventure-based learning activity was designed to cultivate leadership opportunities and encourage gender conversations.

Captain of the Australian Army women’s football team, Corporal Chloe Callaghan, was a participant on the walk and spoke about the unique insight it gave her into the gender issues faced by women in Timor-Leste.

“It was wonderful to get to know these strong women throughout the day and learn that women everywhere face gender challenges of one kind or another and that supporting each other is vital to overcoming them,” Corporal Callaghan said.

While in Timor-Leste, the team also visited the Santa Teresinha School in the town of Liquica, where they repainted classrooms and gifted soccer balls and school supplies.

Engaging with local communities is a priority for IPE and something that participants often find to be their highlight.


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