Geelong-Viqueque Friendship Schools

Geelong-Viqueque Friendship Schools Inc (A0051409J) is a registered charity based in Geelong, Victoria that has been operating for over 10 years. The focus of our activities is to improve educational opportunities for the over 4,000 students living in the district of Viqueque, Timor Leste.

In Timor Leste we help Viqueque District students to have a better education by assisting with the provision of school resources and teacher training.

In Geelong we help Geelong students to have a greater understanding of the conditions and challenges of a developing country though school activities and visits to Timor Leste.

Through this work we aim to create friendships across borders and enhance the awareness and appreciation of different cultures amongst young people, both in Timor Leste and Australia, as well as to empower young people with a sense of social responsibility and connectedness with their larger world.

The group meets monthly to initiate new ways of supporting the people of Viqueque and in sustaining and coordinating existing projects within the district. At the heart of our work has been the establishment of a partnership between Geelong and Viqueque schools. Currently 13 State, Catholic and Independent schools have paired with 13 schools within the district of Viqueque in Timor Leste.

The Geelong-Viqueque Friendship Schools had its origins in July 2006 when Patrice Hall, Rosemary Nugent, Liz Coles and Peter Cannon met as a small working group of the Geelong Catholic Social Justice committee. Subsequently the group expanded drawing new members from across the Geelong community.

The committee was committed to improving the quality of education in the District of Viqueque in Timor Leste and to encourage Geelong schools to include the study of Timor Leste in their curriculum.

During this period a number of Geelong schools, principally those that were members of Australia East Timor Friendship Schools were approached to consider becoming part of the Geelong-Viqueque Friendship Schools and to join with partner schools in Viqueque. From this small beginning the group now includes 13 local schools and involves a large numbers of community members.

2014 saw the implementation phase of a Literacy Project in Viqueque using funds from the Butler Donation, a most generous gift of $120,000 from John and Gael Butler.

The Language Project has had a significant focus on the professional development of teachers. The implementation of this professional development has been undertaken in collaboration with two Timor Leste training providers, Mary MacKillop International Literacy Team and The Learning Resource Development Centre. Both providers are staffed by qualified Timorese teachers, who act as excellent role models for local Viqueque teachers.

Anther project supported by Geelong Viqueque Friendships Schools (GVFS) is the Continuing Education Scholarships for students who would otherwise struggle to continue their secondary or tertiary education. The students undertaking tertiary studies are either studying at the Bacau Teachers’ College or the Fatumaca Technical College. In 2014 the Geelong Viqueque Friendship Schools began by allocating $13,400 to support 27 young people to continue with their studies.

In addition the GVFS supports our 13 partner schools with Viqueque with gifts of teaching, sporting and recreational materials that enhance the programs offered by those schools. In 2014 $7,000 was spent on furniture, English/Tetun word finders, sporting gear, Tetun story books, stationery and staff lockers. Funds were also allocated to a joint community and school garden at Ossu. This funding also included a week’s training in Dili, conducted by NIAM Health.

Each year we also distribute many other items, such laptops and classroom furniture, which has been donated by Geelong and Melbourne schools. In 2012 the Geelong Viqueque Friendships Schools (GVFS) organised a Geelong based professional development program for Principals and English teachers, in conjunction with the Timor Leste Ministry of Education. This program saw ten Timorese educators spend three week in Geelong undertaking a mix of instruction and practical placements within Geelong schools..

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