Ballarat Ainaro Friendship Forum

June 24, 2012 – 4:12 pm

Building links with students from East Timor

About 100 Education students took part in the annual Ballarat Ainaro Friendship Schools’ Forum for students of the friendship schools in Ballarat and East Timor on Tuesday 19th May.

Over 20 primary and secondary schools in Ballarat are members of the Ainaro Friendship Schools, which forms a part of the Ballarat Friends of Ainaro Committee (BFOAC). The aim of the forum is to give students in Ballarat an opportunity to become involved with their East Timorese friendship schools and help to build awareness of East Timor in the local community.

The forum attracted just over 100 primary and secondary school students and teachers from Ballarat, who participated in a range of East Timorese activities scattered around the ACU Ballarat Campus. There was lots of activity in the campus library!

Examples of the activities – making woollen Friendship Dolls, printing of Friendship Bags, creating crocodiles and story telling of the East Timorese Crocodile story, making bead kebabs and playing math games, Tetun singing and dancing, playing Wari and a visual experience of Ainaro by Damascus students who visited their Friendship School in Ainaro last year. These activities were packaged in the Friendship Bags that will be given to the students in Ainaro.

At the end of the forum there was a Skype link up with the students in the schools of the Ainaro district in East Timor.

A little bit of history behind this event….

After the violence (by the Indonesians) in 1999 it was estimated that 80% to 90% of East Timor’s School infra-structure and buildings were destroyed. Resources were stolen or burned so that when these schools opened there were no basic resources for the students. In 2003 the teacher ratio was 1 teacher to 62 students due to lack of schools for students to be able to attend. This is when the Alola Foundation, an NGO in ET that focussed on the welfare of women and children, initiated the Friendship Schools Project allowing schools in Australia, in particular, Victoria, to have a friendship link with a school in East Timor.

There was great enthusiasm in Ballarat about this project and 22 schools partnered up with schools in Ainaro. This was the District that the City of Ballarat entered into a Friendship Agreement and is known as the Ballarat Friends of Ainaro Committee ( BFOAC ) being a Local Government Initiative. The Friendship Schools Group’s aim was to conduct a Friendship Forum so that students in Ballarat would have an opportunity to become involved with their Friendship Schools on a closer basis and also to increase awareness of East Timor.

The learning of histories and cultures of our neighbour, East Timor, is an important part of a student’s education and these Forum’s allow the students who attend to gain a greater understanding of what East Timor has gone through and how the Ballarat students can assist in making a difference by being a good friend. The day is also a fun experience that the students can remember and share with others.

Busy in the Ballarat library


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