About the Friends of Suai
In 2010 Port Phillip and Suai celebrated the end of the first ten years and all have agreed to continue the friendship until 2020. A new agreement was signed in 2010 see photos and story here. The Friends of Suai began in Port Phillip with a meeting in the Port Melbourne Town Hall in December 1999. Since then the people involved have changed and a Commission of leaders has been formed in Suai. After ten years the projects have grown in number and quality – find more about what’s happening in Friends of Suai News. A Friendship Agreement between Port Phillip and Suai was first signed in March 2000 by Xanana Gusmao.
The Official Launch of the Friends of Suai took place in O’Donnell Gardens, next door to Luna Park in St Kilda, on 19th March 2000. The Timorese community turned up to cook and showed their traditional culture through their food, paintings, weavings, food, pottery, dance and music. Learn more about Timorese traditional culture and the perspective of their young artists through examples of their art.
The launch provided the opportunity for most Port Phillip residents to get their first glimpse of Timorese culture. It was apparent then that East Timor’s culture was different from Indonesia’s and nothing like the Pacific Island cultures either. A browse through Suai Media Space Culture section provides a rich insight into the living traditional culture of East Timor now. For more of their stories through art.
Port Phillip has eleven residents who worked in solidarity with East Timor for over 24 years, (at the time of the referendum in 1999) and others who had been involved since the Santa Cruz Massacre in 1991. One of these, Jean McLean seen pictured here, was active in the Labour Party advocating for Timor’s Independence for many years. Jean was very active in getting the Friends of Suai off the ground in the first year or two. The friendship was formed on solid historical ground with eleven residents of Port Phillip deeply involved.
The first community meeting was hosted by Port Phillip Council Staff and a local Timorese representative for the CNRT, Abel Guterres who had been active in Timorese solidarity in Melbourne for many years. In 2010 Abel was sworn in as the new Ambassador to Australia.
Abel introduced Suai as the town for Port Phillip to befriend. Read more about Suai here. As the largest centre near the Timor Sea, it is likely to be most affected if the oil and gas industry choose Timor for processing.
Council’s next request for community involvement came in the form of a ‘Truckloads for East Timor’ campaign. The community were invited to bring bicycles, garden tools, anything really on the assumption that everyone in Suai had lost everything. In July 2000 200 bicycles, second hand clothes, sewing machines, musical instruments and gardening implements together with the truck pictured left. They landed in Dili and were later delivered to Suai.
Since 2009 the Port Phillip residents have donated funds for a wide variety of projects from jackfruit plantations and permaculture gardens to youth media group with broadband access and a library for the local school. Read more about the projects here.