Australian Embassy


Awardee strives for a greener Timor-Leste

Now in her final year of her Bachelor of Environmental Science and Business Law double degree, Maria do Ceu Rosales is on the verge of realising her lifelong dream - turning her passion for nature into a career.

“Studying Environmental Science at the University of Western Australia (UWA) has given me real insight into my passion for conserving the environment, incorporating sustainable principles and above all hands-on practical experiences,” Maria enthusiastically declares.

“Fieldwork out in nature always excites me. It is something I encourage more women to embark on in spite of the male-dominated career stereotype.

“If you love the environment, then pursue Environmental Science. It might be daunting at first but it will be worth it in the end”. 

Maria added that a career as an Environmental Scientist in Timor-Leste will be both exciting and challenging because many Timorese are yet to fully appreciate the impact of environmental degradation and its economic ramifications.

“This is the reason I’m pairing Environmental Science with Business Law,” Maria explains.

“The skills and knowledge I have gained from Business Law will allow me to develop a more sustainable environmental legislation as well as the ability to critically analyse a policy from a commercial and environmental viewpoint.”

Maria hopes that as Timor-Leste develops, its environmental policies will not only be commercially driven but will also prioritise protection of the natural beauty of the island.

 “Coming from an agricultural background and growing up in such a pristine natural environment taught me to value the beauty that nature provides and that we need to do all that we can to protect it, something that is seemingly lacking in today’s society,” observes Maria.

Maria is now calling for mass awareness of Timor-Leste’s biodiversity.

“I’d like to see more people informed about the importance of the environment, its role in our lives, and for people to develop an appreciation for our biodiversity.”

Despite having her hands full with a double degree, Maria still makes time to support her fellow Timorese. Maria is an executive committee member of Timor Leste Vision Inc (TLV), a Perth based non-governmental organisation that focuses on providing rural Timorese communities with education, water and sanitation.

As part of TLV, Maria contributed to the delivery of a 5km water pipeline to aldeia Hatete, a small rural village in Ermera, Timor-Leste, benefiting 77 households and one primary school. 

 “Supporting education and knowledge-transfer has always been one of my strong suits.”

Maria was also elected last year to the role of Student Scholarship Coordinator at TLV, overseeing and mentoring 10 university students from Ermera, Timor-Leste. 

Together with the TLV team, Maria will establish a TLV branch in Timor-Leste to further strengthen ties and maintain long-term partnership with Australia.

Maria is set to complete her studies in December 2016 and will return home to work with fellow Timorese across various fields to bring about positive change to the country.


Awardee targets reasearch in agriculture land in Timor-Leste

Meet Roni Pati Tpoi, an Australia Awards alumni who completed his Master of Agriculture from the University of New England, Australia.  Roni was recently awarded an Australian Scholarship Small Grant to undertake scientific research on controlling the impact of the Diamond Back Moth on agriculture in Timor-Leste. Roni conducted his research in agricultural lands around Maubessi.

During his four months of research, Roni discovered that due to the current long dry season in Timor-Leste, the cabbage crop yields were poor but that cabbage quality was being further impacted by the Diamond Back Moth.  His research showed that organic controls of the Diamond Back Moth are better than chemical controls in terms of value for money.  This insight will help farmers yield better results in terms of cabbage quality and profits.

Roni’s research also looked at how chemical controls were applied.  He noted the importance of raising awareness in Timor-Leste about alternative methods of pest control.  “If farmers are well trained, they can apply various methods of prevention and treatment of pest disease in order to multiply their income,” Roni says.

The Australian government provides grants of up to US$5,000 to support Timorese Australia Awards Alumni to undertake research activity, leadership and professional development opportunities in order to contribute to the future development of Timor-Leste


Recipient of English language training more confident in performing his role as Customs Officer

Timor-Leste Customs Officer, Juliao Ximenes has had the opportunity to study English in Australia through the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s intensive English language programme. 

“Being a customs officer, English is an important language for my work as I need to be able to communicate with people from all over the world,” said Juliao, who is currently completing his three month English course at the University of Queensland in Brisbane.

“My English was very poor when I started my job at the Timor-Leste Customs Office in 2013 but it is improving a lot now.” He said: “Everyday my English and communication skills continue to get better and better.”

The intensive language programme brings together immigration and customs officers from around the region, allowing participants to develop English language skills and exchange information on regional border security challenges.  According to Juliao, “learning English is not only about improving job performance but also building good relationships with people from other countries.”

Juliao hopes his improved English language skills will assist him to better manage Timor-Leste’s borders, through facilitating trade and protecting Timor-Leste from illegal activity.

The English language programme  forms part of a broader bilateral Australian Government assistance programme to support Timor-Leste’s national border security objectives. 


Awardee finds his calling thanks to Australia Awards scholarship

Rafael Beni is the first to admit that he didn't have a clear career goal prior to undertaking his Australia Awards scholarship.

"Before coming to Australia I was unsure of my direction because in Timor-Leste, we mostly work just to feed our family," he says.

But what Rafael lacked in direction he made up for in extensive experience spanning industries, including seven years with DHL Express, a stint with the US Embassy, and most recently in the oil and gas industry.

Rafael's indecision also proved a valuable opportunity to explore various interests, and gain exposure to the different streams within his Bachelor of Business degree at RMIT University in Melbourne, Victoria.

However, by the second year into his degree, Rafael had found his niche, going on to major in Logistics and Supply Chain Management.

“When I started, I hadn’t really thought about the procurement side of business but when I studied procurement and global sourcing, I immediately started thinking that it was exactly where I wanted to focus my career," he says.

Now filled with a sense of purpose, Rafael is taking full advantage of the many opportunities his scholarship affords him so that he is better able to contribute to Timor-Leste's development upon completion of his degree.

“Though our focus in Australia is study, I’ve also taken on part time work so I can learn firsthand how things work within a western context, which I can then take back to apply in Timor.” Rafael is currently working for Community Housing Ltd - a company that delivers affordable housing both locally and internationally. As the Continuous Improvement Officer, Rafael is tasked with developing the organisation’s international offices across India, Chile, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.  Rafael also moonlights as a liaison officer between the company’s head office, where he is based, and the Timor-Leste office. 

Rafael says his job with Community Housing Ltd has not only allowed him to grow as a professional, it has also helped him to become a better student. 

“Before I started working there I didn’t really know how to manage my time, or think about what I should do a week or a month from now but since working I’ve learned valuable new skills such as time management, report writing, and how to communicate effectively to solve problems.”

With hundreds of hours of Australian experience under his belt, Rafael is setting his sights on a leadership position to ensure that he is able to implement the changes he would like to see in his country.

“Our government wants to promote consumption of local products but without proper logistics and supply chain support consumers will continue to rely on imported products,” he says.

“It’s hard for us to effect change if you don’t have power in an organisation so I’m aiming to be ready for a position where my ideas can be used to create and implement change.”


Awardee targets education reforms in Timor-Leste

Julia Gaio has big plans for Timor-Leste’s education sector and she’s not afraid to share them.

 “I might be the Minister of Education someday, who knows,” she laughs.

Julia is currently undertaking her Bachelor of Education (Primary Teaching) at Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory, Australia through the Australia Awards scholarships.

As a national teacher-training consultant prior to commencing her scholarship, Julia believes a strategy of training the trainer is crucial to better developing Timor-Leste’s education system. According to a World Bank report published in 2013, by the time Timor-Leste declared its independence from Indonesia in 2002, many schools had already been destroyed and there were severe shortages of qualified teachers throughout the country.

And while the Timorese government is making significant inroads towards rebuilding its education sector, Julia believes there is still much to be done particularly at the grassroots level.

 “As a trainer of teachers, I really want to see primary school teachers receive a lot more training in the future, especially in methodology and pedagogy skills,” she says.

Julia added that when it comes to teaching and learning, particularly in the early years, the focus should be on quality not quantity.

 “I really want to work closely with other teachers, and also would like to see the number of students in the classroom reduce.

“Ideally, each of these classrooms would also have more than one teacher. That would ensure quality rather than quantity.”

It is now, more than ever, that Julia appreciates the important role her knowledge and skills will play in enabling her to realise her personal vision for Timor-Leste.

“Since coming to study at Charles Darwin University, I have gained many different things – ideas, experiences, knowledge and skills – all of which I will bring back and share with my people, especially the teachers that I will work with,” she says.

Another significant benefit of Julia’s scholarship experience has been the opportunity to forge connections with people from all walks of life. Julia says she’s not only building her network with other future change agents from around the world she has also learned to be culturally sensitive enough to both make and take a joke.

This is not to say that her Australian experience has been without challenges, but the resourceful awardee said she simply found ways around them.

“One thing I find really challenging is dealing with assignments but I just learnt how to manage my time better as well as take advantage of the many support services available to us, and because I’m here by myself I have had to get to know people in other courses so I can talk about my assessment with them.”

Although she confesses to missing her family, Julia keeps busy by engaging in part-time work with the Catholic Education department of Darwin where she provides translation services for teachers who are working in Timor-Leste. Recently, Julia joined Holy Spirit Catholic Primary School as an Inclusive Support Assistant & After School Care and previously spent two weeks teaching at an Aboriginal school in Darwin. “The great thing about it is that I am able to work in an Australian classroom”, said Julia.


Awardee calls for more Timorese women in Engineering

Nelida Jandira Fernandes Alves is the personification of ‘girl power’.

The Bachelor of Civil Engineering (Honours) student, who studied at the University of South Australia has never felt more confident in her decision to break into a traditionally male-dominated field.

The proud recipient of an Australia Awards scholarship, Nelida is a strong advocate for more Timorese women in engineering, calling for all those Timorese women with a love of maths and science to also take the plunge.

“It’s a great field to study, especially if you love a challenge,” she says.

“It’s not just that engineering is a male-dominated field but you, as a female, should also ask yourself – if men can do it, why can’t I?”

For Nelida, there is power in numbers. She believes that the more women in engineering, the more level the playing field.  “The more diverse the people who work together, the more creative the solutions will be. I strongly encourage women not to be scared to do this course, because engineering is just like any other course – you just need to be dedicated.”

Although she had little work experience prior to her Australia Awards scholarship, Nelida proved herself during her industry placement with Woodside Energy. There, Nelida worked alongside the environmental engineering team to oversee water treatment for oil and gas companies.

“I’ve really enjoyed learning how to apply theoretical knowledge from university to a real life problem. The work environment is quite supportive of women so the diversity in the work place has boosted my confidence in the field,”

But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the engineer. Nelida recounts the initial challenges of not only learning to master English but also having to overcome her shyness in an environment where a women are minority.

 “You already feel a bit behind because English is not your first or even your second language.  On top of that you’re shy.

“I had to be my own cheerleader. I encouraged myself to see this as a challenge that I could face head-on. So I went out of my way to make friends with my male colleagues. I had to prove to them that I’m just as good at this, I can do this.” 

Nelida added that her desire to contribute to her country’s development is also helping her to stay on course.

“I asked myself – what can I offer my country? I want to go back to Timor-Leste and contribute to its development with the knowledge that I now have.

“My aim is to work in Engineering on return home and apply all the knowledge I have gained from here towards a better future for Timor-Leste,” she said.

Nelida chose to specialise in water because of the lack of management of Timor-Leste’s water structures. According to a UNICEF Annual Report on Timor-Leste from 2013, a World Health Organisation-backed study of water quality in four Timor-Leste districts (Lautem, Covalima, Aileu and Dili) found that a staggering 70 per cent of water sources were microbiologically contaminated. 

But thanks to her practical experience at Woodside Energy, Nelida now has valuable experience in water resource management which she plans to draw upon to support her country’s current efforts.

 “I’m hoping that by working with other engineers we can develop strategies that support construction, are more sustainable and will not contribute to global warming.”

Nelida is a member of ‘Engineers in Australia’ and is also involved with ‘Engineering Women in Australia’.


Australia Awards Scholar

Felix Piedade is the recipient of an Australia Awards Scholarship which supports his study, travel and living costs in Australia. 

A student of Doctor of Philosophy (Business) at Flinders University, Adelaide, the Timor-Leste native says the scholarship has not only changed his mindset, it has also enabled him to identify development opportunities for Timor-Leste.  “This scholarship has changed my life,” says Felix, who began his Doctor of Philosophy (Business) in 2014, and also earned a place in the Australian Awards Leadership program.

He is grateful for the positive impact his Australia Awards scholarship has had on his family, who came across to Australia with him. “When my daughter came in 2014, she could not speak any English, now she even cries in English,” laughs Felix.

“I can see a bright future for my two kids. Besides learning the language, their mindset is also changing. They see things differently now.  Even my son has started to think about university at such a young age – he said he wants to go to Flinders University when he finishes school. I told him when I was his age in primary school, I didn’t even have an idea what a university was!”

Felix expects to complete his PhD at the end of February 2018. Until then, he plans to continue to develop and maintain his growing network of local and international contacts and to focus on his studies and family life.


Australia Awards Alumni

Agostinho is an Australian Awards alumni who completed his Masters of Education at Adelaide University in 2013. He returned to Timor-Leste to work at the the Secretariat of State for Vocational Training Policy and Employment (SEPFOPE).

In the past, young Timorese might have only dreamed of getting a higher education. When Agostinho Gabral was in elementary school in Baucau a teacher asked him about his goals, but he was not sure. ‘Having the opportunity to study in Australia and gain a higher education was something I never imagined’ he says.

After graduating high school, Agostinho continued his studies at UNTL majoring in English. By improving his English ability, Agostinho opened up new opportunities. He was selected to study in Australia under an Australian Development Scholarship.

Agostinho says he was glad to have access to sophisticated resources and receive useful advice from his teachers when studying in Australia.

‘Facilities at the Adelaide University are great. My teachers were also brilliant - they always provided me with support and guidance. It was a really good opportunity to get to know other students from other countries’ Agostinho says.

Agostinho’s academic experience at Adelaide University and professional-level internships prepared him for a career in training and employment policy.

His focus has been on global education, and he is contributing back to Timor-Leste. Working as National Advisor at SEPFOPE, Agostinho’s main responsibility is to produce accreditation standards and create monitoring tools for training providers. He also provides advice on training and employment policies for four chiefs of department and their national staff.

Agostinho’s advice to prospective students is to get work experience. ‘Working in your field during a hiatus from the academic year is the best way to build experience and develop a network of professional contacts’ he says.


Find out more about the Australia Awards and how to apply here.