Geography

  • 14,874 square kilometres – mainly half one island
  • Population about 1.1 million – half under 19
  • Rugged mountainous country with terrible roads
  • Highest mountain about 3,000 metres
  • Soils with limited agricultural potential
  • Tropical climate with very seasonal rainfall
  • Dili is only about 700 kilometres from Darwin
    – the East Timorese are close neighbours

Short history

Before 1999

  • More than 400 years of Portuguese colonial rule left a culture of dependency
  • 25 years of Indonesian rule with more suppression and injustice
  • Catholicism increased from about 30% to over 90% during Indonesian rule
  • Economy not self sufficient before 1999 destruction
  • In 1997 GDP/person was US$246
  • GDP only about half that after 1999 destruction
  • In 1997:
    – life expectancy was 57 years
    – infant mortality was 124 per 1000 live births
    – about half the people over 10 had no schooling

From 1999 until 2008

  • Overwhelming vote for independence in 1999
  • Extreme militia violence destroyed most infrastructure
  • Almost 75% of population were displaced and many were killed
  • Australian army played a vital role in restoring order
  • International aid was initially provided but then declined despite ongoing need
  • Growing concern that freedom has not brought prosperity
  • Widespread fear due to outbreaks of violence in 2006 and attempted assassination of Jose Ramos Horta in 2008.

The Situation Now

  • Education rightly seen as a priority for sustained self sufficiency
  • Health and communication services are two other major issues
  • Support needed to develop a viable market economy
  • Some infrastructure work underway but much more is needed, especially in rural areas
  • Widespread fear due to outbreaks of violence in 2006 and 2008 has now dissipated
  • Unemployment and poverty remain as ongoing problems despite rapid growth in GDP.
 Here is a link to a United Nations map of East Timor region
This map shows East Timor’s proximity to Australia.
Atabae subdistrict mountains looking west from Loes River
One part of the extensive markets in Dili.