2014 / Jenny Coles

Kerferd Oration’s Timor-Leste focus
4 June 2014

JENNY Coles, Australian Liaison Representative for Education for the Australian-born wife of Timor-Leste’s Prime Minister, Ms Kirsty Sword Gusmão, will deliver the 2014 Kerferd Oration in Beechworth on 27 July.

Ms Coles, who is also an activist and humanitarian, will speak of her experiences in Timor-Leste as she explores the role of Indigo Shire communities in supporting the development of this emerging nation.

Based in both Timor-Leste and Australia, Ms Coles supports the work of Her Excellency Kirsty Sword Gusmao in ensuring access to education for all Timorese.

Education is seen as the cornerstone of nation building and Ms Coles is now co-ordinating a team of architects and stakeholders as they design and construct a school that will be a model for future school projects.

Kerferd Oration Committee chair Ian McKinlay said Ms Coles has had a varied career.

“She studied social work at the University of NSW before specialising in the franchising industry. In the early 1990s, news of a referendum and ensuing violence prompted Ms Coles to become an activist for Timor-Leste’s independence and the Timor Sea Justice Campaign,” Mr McKinlay said.

“She travelled to Timor-Leste with the Mary MacKillop Institute in 2002 and worked on a number of humanitarian projects. In 2006 she relocated to Dili and took up the role of administering university scholarship programs and other initiatives with the Institute. She later accepted a role as Her Excellency’s personal assistant and project manager before relocating to Australia in 2011.”

In her current role, Ms Coles organises fundraising and awareness events to support the work of Her Excellency. She continues to project-manage the Rural School Development Program in remote communities of Timor-Leste.

Mr McKinlay said this year’s Oration was the first to focus on a regional issue, rather than a domestic one, and would look at the type of community relationship that can be created in contrast to past paternalistic relationships.

“The oration is part of a package of events that will explore the idea of ‘thinking globally, acting locally’,” Mr McKinlay said. “It will provide an opportunity for our community to think about how we might do things differently, how we might develop understanding and knowledge about the issues that face a developing community.

“There are five lead-in events in June and July that will provide the background to the oration, and a new aspect this year with a post-oration discussion — a call to action.”

The oration program has been developed with Indigo Shire’s Ata’uro Island Friendship Committee to encourage ways for communities to work more closely with the development goals of Timor-Leste and the priorities of the people of Ata’uro.

The lead-in events are:

  • Friday 20 June-5 July, study tour to Timor-Leste for Indigo Shire residents, led by Dr Rik Thwaites.
  • Saturday 21 June, 7pm, Beechworth Neighbourhood Centre, An Evening with Andrew Mahar, founder of WithOneSeed, a community development organisation involved in educational, employment and technological development in Timor-Leste. (Ph: BNC 5728 2386)
  • Thursday 26 June, 12 noon-2pm, Beechworth RSL, Major General Roger Powell, AM Retd, heads a discussion panel on the Timor-Leste-Australian military connection. (Col Trinnick, M 0418 578 911, E rslbeechworth@bigpond.com by 23 June)
  • Sunday 6 July, 10am, Joy Bus Cafe, Barnawartha, brunch followed by screening of Alias Ruby Blade, the story of Kirsty Sword’s involvement in the resistance movement in Timor-Leste and marriage to resistance leader Xanana Gusmão. (Ph: Frances Walsh 0417 364 441)
  • Saturday 21 July, Tanswells Hotel, Beechworth, 6.30pm, Timorese food followed by film, Alias Ruby Blade. (RSVP Lesley Milne, M 0428 389 138, Wednesday 18 June.)

Ms Coles’ Kerferd Oration will be delivered at 11am on Sunday 27 July at Baarmutha Park Function Centre in Balaclava Road, Beechworth. This is a free community event and doors open at 10.15am.

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