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Uni to launch East Timor aid project


7 March 2002
In association with the Australian arm of the international aid organisation Compassion, staff members at Southern Cross University's Coffs Harbour campus are launching a project to ensure the survival and future progress of a 450-student primary school on Atauro island, four hours from Dili, the capital of East Timor.

The project, to be launched officially at SCU on Thursday, 14 March at 11.00am, is called the Atauro Island Schools Project and tax deductible donations to the fund will be used to provide English language reading and writing books - English has been decreed the official language of East Timor - and other school equipment, as well to ensure that local teachers can be paid regularly.

Ms Jan McLeod, the Chaplain at SCU's Coffs Habour Campus, said the school, Pala Sekolah Dasar, had 450 students in years 1 to 6 but only seven teachers at present. It was started on the former Portuguese prison island of Atauro in 1988, under the Indonesian occupation, and while the building is sound there is no electricity connection or piped water.

"Power is provided by small generators, and water must be brought from a well," Ms McLeod said. "The good news is that Compassion, which is a registered charity and a member of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid, is very well represented on the ground by their field officer, Anna Gomez.

"She will not only ensure that donated funds are spent wisely and well, but provide supporters with regular feedback about progress."

Staff at all SCU campuses have been invited to support the Atauro Island Schools Project through regular or one-off donations, and the public is also welcome to become involved.

"Any interested local community members are invited to attend the launch of this significant event, which will be held at 11.00am in Room H3 at the Coffs Campus, followed by an informal get-together at the Osprey restaurant," Ms McLeod said.

Founded in the early 1950s, Compassion specialises in providing children's development aid in 22 countries. The initiators of the Australian branch,

Lawrie and Olive McGowan, now in active retirement, will be on hand to discuss the charity's work, while a background to East Timor's history and its development challenges will be given by SCU media officer Robin Osborne who is a widely published writer on Indonesian and Pacific affairs.

For further details, please contact Ms Jan McLeod on (02) 6659 3262 or Mr Robin Osborne, Media Liaison, Directorate of Marketing & Community Relations,

Phone: (02) 6620 3039 Mobile: 0418 431 484 Email: [email protected]