Since August 2007, Steve Bracks has supported the Timor-Leste government on governance issues on a pro bono basis.
His interest in Timor-Leste began during his tenure as Premier of Victoria when he visited the new nation in 2002 and 2003.
The second visit revolved around the opening of a community centre with the Balibo House Trust in the remote village of Balibo where five Melbourne based journalists were murdered by the Indonesian army in October 1975.
These visits led to a lasting friendship with former resistance leader Xanana Gusmao. When Xanana Gusmao became Prime Minister of Timor-Leste in August 2007, the month after Steve Bracks resigned as Premier of Victoria, Steve’s offer to help, crossed mid air with Xanana’s request for governance advice.
A generous donation from philanthropist Harold Mitchell AC to assist with travel, administration and research expenses, and logistical support from the United Nations Development Program in Timor-Leste, resulted in the Bracks Timor-Leste Governance Project.
Steve made the first of nearly 40 visits to Dili as the Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao’s Special Adviser in September 2007. He is continuing to serve new Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araújo in that role.
Research Director, Kim McGrath has managed the Bracks Timor-Leste Governance Project since its inception.
The Project team helped draft the Timor-Leste Strategic Development Plan, 2011-2030 – the culmination of over 70 public meetings and consultations led by Prime Minister Gusmao. It was launched at the Timor-Leste Development Partners Meeting in July 2011 and continues to frame the nation’s budget and development plans. The Plan sets out a pathway to eradicate poverty and establish a diversified non-oil economy in Timor-Leste.
The Bracks Timor-Leste Governance Project has also provided advice in relation to a sustainable retirement income scheme for civil servants; the development of a masterplan for sanitation and drainage in Dili; the development of the Dili Chamber of Commerce; the Balibo Fort Hotel social enterprise project; a national football league initiative; and Cinema Lorosae, a project initiated by Mike Smith from the Sun Theatre in Yarraville Victoria that is taking movies to Dili and the districts.
At the request of the new Prime Minister, the Bracks Timor-Leste Governance Project is also helping Timor-Leste achieve permanent, equitable maritime boundaries in the Timor Sea with Indonesia and Australia.
Timor Sea policy a challenge for Labor,
by Steve Bracks AC,
The Saturday Paper – 11 July 2015
Oil, gas and spy games in the Timor Sea,
by Kim McGrath,
The Monthly – April 2014
Speech at the INTERFET 15th Anniversary Commemorative Dinner,
Hon Steve Bracks AC,
RACV Club – Saturday 20th September 2014