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Overview of Australia’s aid program to Timor-Leste

2013/14 Estimated Outcome: $106.0 million

2014/15 Budget Estimate: $96.6 million

Australia has a strong interest in a prosperous and stable Timor-Leste. Timor-Leste is one of Australia’s closest neighbours and one of the newest nations in the world. Since Timor-Leste's independence in 2002, Australia has been its largest development partner. Through the Australia–Timor-Leste Strategic Planning Agreement for Development, we share a commitment to achieve Timor-Leste’s development goals.

As a post-conflict state, Timor-Leste has made considerable progress in the past twelve years. Timor-Leste has recently enjoyed a fast-growing economy and its longest period of stability since independence. Human development indicators continue to improve—but from a very low base.

Over two thirds of Timorese still live below US$2 a day. The country’s mainly subsistence-based agriculture sector struggles with low productivity and limited access to markets. The private sector is small and weak. Businesses face considerable obstacles, including difficulties accessing finance, a low-skilled workforce and poor infrastructure. The maternal mortality rate is the highest in the region, while school enrolment has improved, but the quality of education remains poor. Women face significant barriers in accessing education and employment and high rates of domestic violence. And nutrition remains a major concern: 50 per cent of children under five years have stunting—one of the highest rates in the world.

Better access to education, clean water, roads and job opportunities will increase Timor-Leste’s economic growth and reduce poverty. Infrastructure development and business investment will also contribute to Timor-Leste’s development. Stability and security will be critical to achieving this, as well as improved agricultural productivity and market access. By providing more Timorese, especially women, with basic services and job opportunities, Timor-Leste will foster a population better able to contribute to their country’s future development.

In 2014-15, the Australian development assistance program will work with the Timorese Government and communities to improve access to quality basic services, and to increase income opportunities for all Timorese, especially women.

Australia will help promote stronger trade, agriculture productivity and private sector development in Timor-Leste through:

  • working with central government ministries to improve public financial management systems, develop fiscal policy frameworks, and improve procurement procedures
  • assisting farmers to increase agricultural productivity and access to markets to boost household income and nutrition levels
  • working with the Government of Timor-Leste to promote inclusive growth, expanding trade opportunities and increasing private sector development.

Australia will invest in education, skills development training and higher education so that more Timorese can improve their job opportunities. Australia’s support will:

  • provide teacher training and text books, and build more classrooms
  • provide Australia Award Scholarships for Timorese to study at universities in Australia.

Australia will invest in the health sector to improve access to health services, water and sanitation systems, and provide support to end violence against women so that all Timorese, especially women and girls, are healthier, safer and more able to contribute to the development of Timor-Leste. We will help through:

  • safe motherhood services, including midwives and neonatal care able to reach more rural women
  • working with Timorese civil society organisations to provide shelter and legal services to more women who have experienced domestic violence
  • increasing access to clean water for remote villages—Australia has already provided access to a quarter of Timor-Leste’s rural population—and extend the reach of better sanitation services.

Australia will invest in infrastructure including rural roads and community infrastructure so more Timorese can access education, healthcare and create their own opportunities for jobs. Australia’s support will help:

  • expand Timor-Leste’s rural road network and provide rural Timorese, including women, with road building jobs
  • support the Government of Timor-Leste’s community infrastructure grants program, called the National Program for Suco Development, to provide market places, schools, motorbike paths and irrigation to rural communities.


Australia is working in partnership with the Government of Timor-Leste to help it improve public financial management systems and to strengthen the public service. The Australian Federal Police will continue to work with the Timorese National Police to improve police systems and develop community policing.

Governance assistance in Timor-Leste


Australia is helping to save lives in Timor-Leste by improving access to safe water and sanitation, and increasing access to quality health care.

Health assistance in Timor-Leste


Australia is working with Timor-Leste to improve basic education and skills and employment opportunities.

Education assistance in Timor-Leste

Rural development and economic growth

Australian aid is helping Timor-Leste improve economic growth by focusing on key drivers of growth, such as rural development and infrastructure.

Rural development and economic growth assistance in Timor-Leste

Ending violence against women

Australia is working to improve gender equality and address both the causes and consequences of domestic violence in Timor-Leste.

Ending violence against women in Timor-Leste

National Program for Village Development

Australia is supporting the Government of Timor-Leste establish operational procedures, corporate systems and monitoring and evaluation methods for the National Program for Village Development.

National Program for Village Development in Timor-Leste

Our results

  • In 2013-14, 92 kilometres of road was rehabilitated and 130 kilometres of road was maintained.
  • Australia’s support to maternal and child health through NGOs has enabled 45,511 people to access maternal health services, provided 2,795 antenatal visits to pregnant women and trained 156 doctors and midwives.
  • Through the National Health Sector Strategic Plan—Support Project, 623,825 people (64 per cent women) received basic healthcare through rural mobile clinics.
  • In 2013-14, we supported the Civil Service Commission to develop and rollout a Human Resource Manual for all Timorese public servants.
  • In 2013-14 6,760 people gained access to basic sanitation and 17,282 people (51 per cent women) gained increased knowledge of hygiene practices.
  • Through the Seeds of Life program 14,415 farmers (30 per cent women) participated in 1,086 community seed groups, assisting 43,000 households across Timor-Leste use improved seed varieties.

Related documents

Education assistance in Timor-Leste


Education is the key to ensuring every citizen of Timor-Leste has the opportunity to build their own future and escape poverty. Many more children are going to school in Timor-Leste than ten years ago. However, over one third of grade one children do not attend school regularly and about two thirds of children cannot read at a minimum standard by grade four.

Giving all Timorese children the chance to go to school and learn is vital. Australia has been a long-term partner in the education sector in Timor-Leste, providing about $10 million per year toward education programs. Australia’s support focuses on basic education (the first nine years of schooling) and technical and vocational education (TVET). Investment in skills development and employment in Timor-Leste supports the Timor-Leste and Australian governments’ mutual interest of stability and prosperity.

Australia’s support is aligned with the priorities outlined in Timor-Leste’s National Education Strategic Plan 2011-2030. The main focus of Australia’s basic education support is on improving learning outcomes by supporting teacher training, school management, provision of learning materials and English language teaching. Australia is developing a new skills and employment program with the Secretariat of State for Professional Training and Employment Policy focusing on the delivery of skills training that leads to jobs.

Related initiatives

Basic Education Program

$5.3 million, 2012-2014

The Basic Education Program is implemented by the Timor-Leste Ministries of Education, Health, and Infrastructure, with support from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

The program is improving the physical environment of schools and teacher quality through a package of support for school management, teacher training and parent teacher associations. The package is supported by infrastructure development, including school, water and sanitation facilities, and provision of education materials for teachers and students. Australia’s support is also enabling national policies and information management systems to be developed.

Training and Employment Support Program (TESP)

$8 million, 2013-2014

The Training and Employment Support Project is assisting the Government of Timor-Leste to develop and deliver technical skills training to help young Timorese find employment. The program is expanding the newly established vocational education system, establishing a labour market information system, and improving employment services for job seekers.

Timor-Leste English Language Training Program (ETELP)

$5.5 million, 2011-2016

The Timor-Leste English Language Training Program is improving English language teaching in schools through support to the University of Timor-Leste (UNTL) and the national teacher training institute. The program is supporting UNTL to develop teaching methodology, teaching curriculum and operate an English Language Centre that provides resources to lecturers and students. The program is also trialing a model for in-service training of English teachers in schools in two districts.

Education and Literacy Materials Partnership

$3.5 million, 2012-2014

Through the Education and Literacy Materials Partnership, Australia is supporting the Alola Foundation, a local Timorese Non-Government Organisation, to train primary and pre-school teachers, and provide mobile library services to schools and communities throughout Timor-Leste. The partnership is developing multilingual learning resources, including reading materials in Tetum for early grades of primary school. In 2014-15, literacy packs will be distributed to every primary school in Timor-Leste. More than 200 scholarships are provided each year for disadvantaged girls to complete secondary school, assisting with education costs and living expenses such as transport, food and clothing.

Ending violence against women in Timor-Leste


Domestic violence is a barrier to human development in Timor-Leste. Over a third of Timorese women above the age of 15 report having experienced violence in their lifetime. Violence against women not only violates women’s dignity and basic rights; the cost to Timor-Leste’s economy is also high. Domestic violence inhibits women’s participation in development and the extent to which they benefit from it. It has both direct and indirect economic costs, in health care, social services, policing and increased strain on the justice system.

Gender equality is central to economic and human development and to supporting women’s rights. Equal opportunity for women and men supports economic growth and helps to reduce poverty. Across all of our programs, we pay particular attention to promoting empowerment of women and girls. We are implementing a gender action plan which sets out concrete actions and targets for each sector program.

From 2008 to 2013, Australia provided support for ending violence against women under the Justice Sector Support Facility. The Facility provided grants and support to civil society organisations working on domestic violence. In April 2014, Australia launched a new $20 million, Ending Violence Against Women program in Timor-Leste, building on and expanding our previous support.

Read an Office of Development Effectiveness report on violence against Women in Melanesia and Timor-Leste

Related initiatives

Ending Violence Against Women in Timor-Leste

$20 million, 2014-2017

Australia’s new $20 million Ending Violence Against Women (EVAW) program in Timor-Leste program commenced in April 2014. It is implemented by The Asia Foundation in close partnership with Timor-Leste’s Ministry of Social Solidarity and Secretariat of State for the Promotion of Equality. The EVAW program aims to address both the causes and consequences of violence by shifting attitudes and behaviours that contribute to violence, and supporting the provision of shelter, counselling,health and legal services for survivors.

The program focuses on three interlinked components, aligning with Timor-Leste’s National Action Plan on Gender-based Violence:

  • The prevention of violence against women. Activities under this component will include targeted research to inform prevention strategies, grants and governance support to Civil Society Organisation’s to implement evidence-based prevention strategies focused on behavior change, and support to the Secretariat of State for the Promotion of Equality.
  • Providing health, welfare, counselling and shelter services to women and children affected by violence. Activities under this component will include institutional strengthening support to the Ministry of Social Solidarity to oversee service provision, grants and governance support to civil society organisations to improve the service quality and reach , and an accredited social work training program for community-based workers.
  • Enabling access to justice for women affected by violence. Activities under this component will include grants and support to civil society organisatons to provide specialised legal assistance to survivors and court monitoring, and targeted activities to remove constraints in the formal justice sector.

Governance assistance in Timor-Leste


Timor-Leste has made substantial progress achieving political stability and functioning state institutions since independence in 2002. But it remains fragile and its stability cannot be taken for granted. Timor-Leste’s government and law and order institutions are still developing, as are its systems for financial management and public administration. Timor’s own Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030 sets out ambitious targets to develop the economy and improve service delivery. Building the capacity of the civil service is critical to achieving these targets.

Australia is working in partnership with the Government of Timor-Leste to grow the economy by building systems for managing public money to strengthen the rigour of investments including in building and maintaining infrastructure, medical supplies, doctors and teachers. And we are helping to build the capacity of the public service in Timor-Leste so that it has the capacity to meet the development needs of Timor-Leste’s population.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is assisting Timor-Leste to build a legitimate, effective and accountable police service. The AFP works with the Timor-Leste National Police Force to reduce the prospect of future conflict and increase community access to formal justice systems, particularly in the areas of gender-based violence.

Please refer to the AFP website for further information on the Timor-Leste Police Development Program.

Related initiatives

Governance for Development

$61.78 million, 2014-2018

Australia recently commenced a new governance program which provides advisory services to government institutions to improve their systems for service delivery and financial management. We are assisting Timorese government agencies to make informed economic decisions to promote fiscal sustainability and policy coherence. The program also aims to strengthen systems for public financial management, public administration and other systems that impact on service delivery.

A partnership with Timor-Leste’s Directorate General of Statistics and the Australian Bureau of Statistics assists the Timor-Leste Government to make informed decisions based on reliable data from products like the Consumer Price Index, Census, and Household Income and Expenditure Surveys.

To enable the development of the private sector, the Governance for Development program funds a Market Development Facility that seeks out opportunities for local Timorese businesses and establishes private sector partnerships in priority areas including agribusiness and food production.

Through our partnership with the Asia Foundation, the Governance for Development program supports the growth of civil society in Timor-Leste and the development of the policy-making process and environment.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
Interim East Timor Governance for Development Program Design Document 2011 Design document
Interim East Timor Governance for Development Program Concept Note 2011 Concept note
Functional and Organisational Review of the Civil Service Commission in Timor-Leste 2012 Review

Health assistance in Timor-Leste


Building a healthier future for Timor-Leste is a fundamental priority for Australia and Timor-Leste. By providing access to safe water and sanitation, and improving health outcomes for Timorese women and children in all 13 districts, Australia’s aid program is helping to save lives in Timor-Leste.

Timor-Leste has made good progress in improving child and infant mortality in the past decade. Timor-Leste and Australia have worked together in partnership since 2002 to deliver essential healthcare services, such as vaccinations to prevent children’s deaths from diseases.

Yet every day Timorese mothers and children face huge health challenges. Timor-Leste has one of the highest rates of women dying from pregnancy and childbirth in Asia (557 deaths per 100,000 live births). Malnutrition has improved, but children living in rural areas in Timor-Leste are still among the most under-nourished in the world—50 per cent of children under five are stunted. Limited access to clean water and basic sanitation contributes to the spread of persistent infectious diseases such as diarrhea, which can be fatal.

Good health will enable children to learn effectively in school and increase labour productivity. We are focusing our aid efforts on improving the health outcomes and well-being of Timorese mothers and children. Our support will improve capacity to provide safe and clean births and identify and respond to complicated births. It will also help to empower families to better plan for their children. And it will reduce child and infant mortality by improving access to safe water and improved sanitation facilities.

Related initiatives

Health Program

$28.8 million, 2014-2018

The Timor-Leste Ministry of Health and Australian Government are working together on a new long-term Health Program to improve health outcomes for Timorese women and children across all 13 districts. The program commenced in 2014 and represents a major change of approach to our health support to Timor-Leste.

The program aims to support reforms led by our Timorese counterparts, where there is strong leadership and willingness to change. We will support the Ministry of Health’s immediate priorities in the health sector and work together on longer-term solutions to underlying systemic weaknesses.

Over the next four-years we will discuss and agree on a menu of packages which address key problems and constraints in the Timor-Leste health system. The packages will be aligned with the National Health Sector Strategic Plan. The first package is focused on improving health transport and ambulances across Timor-Leste to allow ambulances to respond rapidly to emergencies and safely transport patients. Initial indications are that future packages of support are likely to be focused on constraints such as human resources for health, health financing management, health information management, health infrastructure, laboratory and blood bank services, and building demand and accountability.

Through this health program, Australia will consolidate our existing projects into a single program to support the Ministry of Health.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
Timor-Leste Health Program 2013-2021—Concept Note 2013 Concept note
Timor-Leste Ministry of Health Discussion Note (English) 2013 Discussion note
Timor-Leste Ministry of Health Discussion Note (Tetum) 2013 Discussion note
Access to Mainstream Health and Rehabilitation Services for People with Disability in Timor-Leste—Situation analysis 2013 Situation analysis
Economic Inputs to the Timor-Leste Health Design—Final draft 2013 Analysis
Timor-Leste Health Program gender analysis 2013 Analysis

Safe Motherhood

$11.7 million, 2009-2015

Timor-Leste has one of the highest rates in Asia of women dying from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Through the Safe Motherhood program, Australia is providing a range of life-saving services to women and children, including helping families plan births and assisting women deliver babies safely. The program works through two implementing partners: Health Alliance International and Marie Stopes International Timor-Leste.

Health Alliance International (HAI) works in five districts providing 'safe motherhood' services such as essential newborn care, family planning, and training in emergency obstetric care to midwives and nurses. HAI provides health planning support in districts, subdistricts and villages.

Marie Stopes International Timor-Leste assists the Ministry of Health provide 'safe motherhood' in eight districts. These services include outreach mobile health clinics, as well as providing education sessions in schools, youth centres and youth-friendly counselling services.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
Health Alliance International Proposal 2013–14 (Timor-Leste) 2012 Proposal
Health Alliance International Summary Budget 2013–14 (Timor-Leste) 2012 Budget
Marie Stopes International Evaluation 2011 (Timor-Leste) 2012 Partner evaluation

Basic Secondary Skills Development through the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (Family Medicine Program)

$8.7 million, 2012-2016

Together with the Ministry of Health, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons is implementing the Family Medicine Program which is focused on developing basic secondary skills of approximately 200 junior doctors at Community Health Centres. The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons has provided support in training doctors in surgery, peadiatrics, and anaesthesia to date. More recently, and in response to the Ministry of Health’s urgent priority, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons reprioritised their support to focus on secondary skills development for junior Timorese doctors.

Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Program (BESIK)—Phase II

Up to $43 million, 2012-2016

The Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Program, known as Be'e Saneamentu no Ijiene iha Komunidade (BESIK), is improving the rural water, sanitation and hygiene sector in Timor-Leste. The program works in partnership with the Government of Timor-Leste to ensure rural communities and selected schools are accessing safe water and using sanitation services and facilities. BESIK implements activities across Timor-Leste and these include a mixture of physical infrastructure, institutional strengthening, policy development and capacity building.

BESIK II contributes to the Government of Timor-Leste’s goal of providing 75 per cent of the rural population with reliable and sustainable access to safe drinking water, and 55 per cent of the rural population having access to improved sanitation by 2015. This is consistent with the Millennium Development Goals for this sector.

BESIK II builds on a first phase of Australian assistance ($41 million, 2009-2012), with support focused on:

  • service delivery (water supply operations and maintenance)
  • community-based sanitation and hygiene promotion
  • management systems at the district and central levels of government.
Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
Rural Water and Sanitation Phase II in Timor-Leste Concept Note 2011 Concept note
Timor-Leste Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Program (BESIK)—Phase II Design Document 2011 Design document
Timor-Leste Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Program (BESIK) Mid-Term Independent Progress Review Report 2010 Evaluation report
Past reflections...future plans: An independent evaluation of AusAID’s support to rural WASH in Timor-Leste 2012 Evaluation report
Independent Evaluation of AusAID’s Support to Rural Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Timor-Leste—Management response 2013 Management response
BESIK Activity Completion Report 2012 Activity completion report
BESIK Activity Completion Report Annexes 2012 Activity completion report

National Program for Village Development in Timor-Leste


Up to $55 million, 2012-2017

The Government of Timor-Leste’s National Program for Village Development (Programa Nasional Desenvolvimentu Suku—PNDS) provides annual grants of around $50,000 to every village in the country for small scale infrastructure projects. These projects might include building or refurbishing irrigation channels, bridges, motorbike paths, market places, as well as refurbishment of water systems, schools or health posts. The program uses Community-Driven Development approaches that give local communities control over planning decisions.

Australia does not directly fund grants, but is assisting the Government of Timor-Leste establish operational procedures, corporate systems and monitoring and evaluation methods. Our support, which was sought by the Government of Timor-Leste, has also helped field test the program and to train around 400 community facilitators to help villages plan and build their infrastructure projects. Australia’s ongoing support to the national implementation of the program includes further training and human resources support as well as corporate and technical systems strengthening.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
Program Operations Manual—Programa Nasional Dezenvolvimentu Suku 2011 Operations manual
Community driven development and PNDS—overview slides 2013 Overview slides
PNDS and AusAID’s support program—slides 2013 Overview slides
National Program for Village Development (PNDS) briefing (Timor-Leste) 2013 Briefing
National Program for Village Development Support Program (PNDSSP)—Investment Design Summary 2013 Investment design
National Program for Village Development Support Program (PNDSSP)—Investment Design Summary (Tetum) 2013 Investment design
Draft PNDS implementation schedule 2013 Progress report
National Program for Suco Development (PNDS) Support Program—Quarter 4 report 2013 Progress report

Rural development and economic growth assistance in Timor-Leste


Shared and sustained economic growth remains the most powerful long-term solution to reducing poverty. In Timor-Leste, Australian aid focuses on key drivers of growth, such as rural development and infrastructure.

The majority of Timor-Leste’s population, and especially the poor, live in rural areas where agriculture is critical for employment and for food. Most poor families face a ‘hungry season’ of up to four months annually, where food is scarce until a new season of crops can be harvested. Most rural families have limited or no access to financial services, such as loans, which makes it difficult to find new ways to generate income. They have limited access to markets, employment opportunities and important services such as healthcare and education due to poor roads.

Increasing agricultural productivity, providing better services, and improving access to those services and to markets through better roads in rural Timor-Leste are priorities for the Government of Timor-Leste as stated in its Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030. These improvements enhance economic activity and employment opportunities. Australia is supporting Timor-Leste achieve these goals, as agreed in the jointly signed Strategic Planning Agreement for Development. The approach has been to work through government to build capacity to strengthen service delivery at the local level, while working to strengthen local community participation at the same time.

Australian support in the rural development sector also contributes to health and education outcomes. For example, crop varieties developed through Seeds of Life can contribute to more balanced and nutritious diets, while improvements in rural roads are increasing access to schools and clinics.

Related initiatives

Seeds of Life Phase III

$25 million ($22 million DFAT and $3 million ACIAR), 2011-2016

Seeds of Life, run in partnership with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), aims to improve food security and reduce hunger in Timor-Leste. The program is helping the development and distribution of better yielding varieties of crops including rice, maize, sweet potato, cassava and peanuts.

Farmers will be able to grow more and better crops to support their families and improve their nutrition thanks to access to better seeds. Farmers will also be able to earn cash income by selling some of their crops.

By the end of 2015, around 65,000 farmers (around 50 per cent of farmers in Timor-Leste) will have access to Seeds of Life seed varieties.

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
Timor-Leste Seeds of Life Program—Concept note 2009 Concept note
Timor-Leste Seeds of Life Phase III (SoL III) Project Design Document Volume 1 2010 Design document
Timor-Leste Seeds of Life Phase III (SoL III) Project Design Document Volume 2 2010 Design document
Timor-Leste Seeds of Life Phase III (SoL III) Quality at entry report 2010 Quality at entry report
Seeds of Life Annual Plan 2011-12 2011 Annual plan
Seeds of Life: Annual Plan 2012-2013 2012 Annual plan
Seeds of Life: Annual Plan 2013-2014 2013 Annual plan
Timor-Leste Seeds of Life (Phase 3) Technical Advisory Group Report 2011 Technical report
Timor-Leste Seeds of Life (SOL) 3 Technical Advisory Group (TAG) 2 report 2012 Evaluation report

Roads for Development

$30 million, 2012-2016

The Roads for Development program is helping the Government of Timor-Leste establish a system for rehabilitating and maintaining the country’s rural roads. Improved roads will make it easier for people to access health centres, schools and markets, and help farmers earn sustainable incomes.

The program aims to improve more than a third of Timor-Leste’s rural roads (over 1,150km) through rehabilitation and maintenance. Where possible, labour intensive approaches are used to maximise employment opportunities for people in rural areas. The program is implemented by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Related documents*
Name of document Year published Type
Timor-Leste Roads for Development ILO–Concept Note 2011 Concept note
Timor-Leste Roads for Development design document 2011 Design document
Timor-Leste Roads for Development—Quality at entry report 2011 Quality at entry report
Roads for Development—Six-monthly Progress Report to June 2012 (Timor-Leste) 2012 Progress report
Roads for Development—Six-monthly Progress Report to December 2012 2012 Progress report

Last reviewed: 16 December, 2014