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Development assistance in Timor-Leste

Flag of Timor-Leste

Overview of Australia's aid program to Timor-Leste

2020-21 bilateral allocation [budget estimate]
$73.0 million
2020-21 total Australian ODA [budget estimate]
$105.2 million
2019-20 total Australian ODA [budget estimate]
$100.7 million

* COVID-19 Development Response Plans are forthcoming and will be published on this page. Australia’s development efforts are set out in Partnerships for Recovery: Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response.

Australia has a strong interest in a prosperous and stable Timor-Leste. Australia and Timor-Leste are close neighbours, with a shared history and strong people-to-people links. Since Timor-Leste's independence in 2002, Australia has been its largest development partner.

The Australia-Timor-Leste Strategic Planning Agreement for Development articulates our shared commitment to achieving Timor-Leste's development goals.

We work with the government and people of Timor-Leste to support their priorities and their programs. Australia's development cooperation focuses on three objectives: improving livelihoods and economic development; enhancing human development; and strengthening governance and institutions. Across all programs, we prioritise improving nutrition, empowering women and girls and supporting disability-inclusive development.

Timor-Leste has made considerable progress since its independence in 2002. It has made strong economic and social progress and enhanced security, although challenges remain if Timor-Leste is to achieve the ambitious goals set out in its Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030. These include reaching upper-middle income status, eradicating extreme poverty and establishing a diversified non-oil economy by 2030.

Four in ten Timorese live below the national poverty line. The country's mainly subsistence-based agriculture sector has low productivity and there is limited access to markets. Challenges faced by the private sector include accessing finance, a low-skilled workforce and poor infrastructure. The maternal mortality rate is one of the highest in the region. While school enrolment has improved, learning outcomes remain poor. Women face significant barriers in accessing education and employment and there are high rates of gender-based violence. Nutrition remains a major concern with high rates of stunting in children under five years (50 per cent).

Improving livelihoods and economic development

Timor-Leste is aiming to build a diverse economy, with opportunities for business and investment, and more jobs for its people. Australia supports the Timor-Leste government to create more jobs and a stronger private sector, to increase rural incomes and ensure more people are workforce-ready. We help the Timor-Leste Government to support private sector development through policy, regulatory and legal reform. Australia partners with business to create jobs and increase incomes. We also work with government and industry to develop the vocational skills that Timorese businesses need.

Investments for improving livelihoods and economic development

Enhancing human development

Investing in people is critical to improving opportunities and developing the economy. Australia's support to improve people's wellbeing aims to deliver higher quality frontline services, increase the number of people that benefit from services and ensure that more women and girls are safe and empowered. In particular, Australia supports Timor-Leste to build a healthier, more productive workforce by improving access to quality basic education, health – especially maternal and child health services – and clean water and sanitation. We focus on enhanced services for women and children affected by violence and improved nutrition through innovative cross-sectoral and collaborative approaches.

Investments for enhancing human development

Strengthening governance and institutions

We work to strengthen governance and institutions by building stronger and more effective government systems while increasing participation in community-level decision-making, improving governance at the sub-national level and improving government decision-making and use of evidence to develop policy. For example, we support Timor-Leste's village infrastructure program which has helped more than 250,000 people become involved in decisions about how to develop and improve their villages. We are helping the Office of the Prime Minister implement new public financial management reforms to improve transparency of government budget allocations and service delivery.

Investments for strengthening governance and institutions

Our results

  • In the last financial year (2018-19) our aid reached 147,000 people through improved health, education and water and sanitation services. Our aid also:
    • trained over 12,000 people to deliver better quality services, including health professionals, teachers and people working on nutrition-sensitive agriculture
    • equipped some 2,200 people with the skills to be job-ready, in sectors such as community management and construction
    • funded around 10,000 instances of support services for people affected by violence, including medical support, accommodation, legal advice, counselling and rehabilitation
    • helped 103 communities to significantly improve sanitation practices.
  • In 2018-19, over 1,500 Timorese workers participated in the Seasonal Worker Program in Australia, and overall more than 5,000 people increased their income through seasonal work and market development initiatives.

Our changing program

Australia remains Timor-Leste's largest development partner. Australia's development program aligns with Timor-Leste's own development priorities as reflected in its Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030. Development assistance is becoming a smaller proportion of Timor-Leste's national budget - in 2018 Official Development Assistance (ODA) accounted for less than four per cent of the budget, compared to 75 per cent in 2002. Australia is responding by concentrating on helping Timor-Leste deploy its own resources to develop the economy and alleviate poverty. Australia will continue to support a range of sectors that will address constraints to the country's critical development needs.

Australia is intensifying its focus on improving nutrition, particularly for women and children. Australia's cross-sectoral approach on nutrition brings together agriculture, health, education, food security and water and sanitation.

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