A chance meeting in Canberra has resulted in a friendship city agreement between Goulburn and Timor Leste, one of the poorest nations in our region.
Owners of the former Saint Joseph’s orphanage on Taralga Road, Maggie and Darryl Patterson, have encouraged Goulburn Mulwaree Council to form the friendship with the southeast Asian country to Australia’s north.
Councillors agreed to the move at their meeting on Wednesday night. Only Cr Margaret O’Neill voted against. She objected not to the friendship but the formal signing.
“It’s locking us in,” she said.
The Agreement came after Mr and Mrs Patterson’s son, Nathanael, was busking in Canberra when Anna Guterres, the wife of Timor Leste (East Timor) Ambassador, Abel Guterras, stopped to listen. She was so struck by the performance she asked Nathanael to perform at the Embassy for a fundraising event for the Alola Foundation, aimed at helping the country’s underprivileged.
The Foundation was started by Australian Kristy Sword Gusmao, who was East Timor’s first lady from 2002 to 2007. It it a not-for-profit non-government organisation aimed at improving the lives of women and children in the country.
The Pattersons attended the Embassy event and so began a cultural relationship. It came at an opportune time, just as the couple was looking for an overseas charity to support using proceeds from their newly launched coffee, ‘Orphan’s Cup.’
“We thought what a great opportunity for Goulburn, which is known as a city with a big heart. This was a chance to continue that care,” Mrs Patterson said.
The Agreement will formalise the relationship between the old orphanage and Timor Leste. The Pattersons are on the cusp of registering a charity which will use funds raised from coffee sales to support Goulburn and overseas projects. In East Timor, it will help vulnerable women and children. The coffee beans come from Timor Leste and the Pattersons believe it’s only fitting to give back to the country.
“We’re absolutely delighted with the council decision,” Mrs Patterson said.
“Timor Leste is our nearest and poorest neighbour where 50 per cent of the children have their growth stunted because of malnutrition. We, as Australians, should do everything we can to help them overcome that with sustainable changes.”
Thirty-nine other Australian councils have friendship city agreements with Timor Leste. They support projects such as ‘Tanks for Timor,’ educational backing and school exchanges, agriculture, health care, nutrition, blankets for hospitals and youth programs.
Mrs Patterson said this network was particularly beneficial because it could make sustainable change in partnership with the Ambassador, who had he ear of the Timor Leste government.
“The Ambassador is going to Timor Leste to find a region that’s not accessing resources as well as others and which needs support...If we can do that, it provides stability for all of us,” she told The Post.
In Goulburn, Trinity Catholic College already sends students on regular exchanges. Mrs Patterson is encouraging more high school participation and says the Agreement continues a long tradition of friendship between the two countries.
“Some 60,000 East Timorese soldiers died protecting Australians from the Japanese in World War Two,” she said.
“We have the history as Australians but also a synergy with the orphanage’s mission in having a heart for people and women and children overseas.”
Cr Peter Walker endorsed the agreement, saying the country had been through a great deal and it was very worthy of support.
It will not cost the council anything and potential benefits include cultural, professional and educational links.
Council general manager Warwick Bennett said it was an opportunity for the community to fundraise and support the Pattersons in their endeavours.
Mr Guterres and the council will sign the agreement in February at the orphanage.