Simao da Silva Barreto Suai Community Centre Co-ordinator visited Australia in August 2007 for 2 weeks. The purpose of his visit was to meet the many supporters of Friends of Suai at the City of Port Phillip (CoPP) and present an evaluation completed by the Suai Commission, staff and partners and discuss the direction of our ongoing work together. Simao is a respected community leader in Suai and teaches in the public secondary school most mornings.
The Port Phillip council has a 10 year friendship agreement to build a strong relationship with the people of Suai. The Friends of Suai comprised of local residents & friends began in 2000 and supports the Suai Community Centre funded by the City of Port Phillip, works with the District Administration, Youth Centre and other partners.
Seventy people attended a public meeting to meet Simao and hear about developments in Suai and the District of Covalima. Port Phillip Council provides an annual grant and residents have generously donated to Suai since 2000. 'The donations are really making a difference to peoples’ lives' he told us. 'There was nothing after the Indonesian milita left Covalima in 1999, now things are beginning to improve' he told us . Let’s hope it continues.
Cr Karen Sait on behalf of Mayor and councillors commissioned a traditional East Timor Tais Weaving for the new St Kilda town hall. This will mean that the young women will learn how to produce the old dyes and thread to weave the Tais. Simao spent time in the schools of Port Phillip visiting Elwood College over 3 days, St Columba’s, Galilee and Elwood Primary schools. He attended a regional schools civics conference at Caulfield Grammar.
At Elwood college he attended various classes and addressed a special lunchtime meeting with Year 12 politics students studying democracy and citizenship, Michael Danby MP, Evan Thornley, Parliamentary Secretary to the Victorian Premier and Cr Janet Cribbes attended the luncheon.
Port Phillip staff showed Simao around he visited St Kilda Town Hall, Council Depot, Port Melbourne Hub, and other activities. Simao looked over the St Kilda Indigenous nursery cooperative (SKINC) to compare notes on strengthening a similar project in Suai. Balwyn Rotary Club are old friends of Suai and welcomed him as guest speaker. Rotary have offered a grant in partnership with Port Phillip to fund solar power for 4 remote health clinics. They are also discussing refurbishment of derelict buildings at the Suai secondary school. He visited 3CR community radio, Alternative Technology Association and Engineers without Borders. City of Kiama NSW who are new friends of the sub district of Zumalai in Covalima with a population of 14,000 people. Simao visted Kiama and hoped to catch a glimpse of Sydney harbour on his way home.
Special thanks to CoPP staff and the Friends of Suai Committee Members and residents of Port Phillip.
Pat Jessen, Coordinator Friends of Suai August 2007