Skip to main content

Development assistance in Timor-Leste

Flag of Timor-Leste

Australia's development partnership with Timor-Leste

How we are helping

2021-22 bilateral allocation [budget estimate]
$73.0 million
2021-22 total Australian ODA [budget estimate]
$105.2 million
2019-20 total Australian ODA [budget actual]
$120.7 million

Australia and Timor-Leste are close neighbours, with a shared history and strong people-to-people links. Australia has been at the forefront of international support for Timor-Leste since independence in 2002 and remains Timor-Leste’s largest development and security partner. We maintain a deep and abiding interest in Timor-Leste’s future prosperity, and we will continue to reshape our development assistance to support Timor-Leste in its COVID-19 response and recovery.

Since independence, Timor-Leste has made considerable progress in establishing state institutions, transitioning out of conflict, and improving key development indicators such as maternal and child mortality. It is rated as Southeast Asia’s most democratic country. However, key development challenges remain.

Most of Timor-Leste’s population lives in rural areas. Timor-Leste’s topography, climate vulnerability, and poor infrastructure compound challenges in agricultural production, access to basic services and employment opportunities. Human capital development is severely constrained by the high rate of stunting for children under the age of five – the third worst in the world.

Limitations in education quality and access to basic health services compound these impacts and mean that Timor-Leste’s young population is not yet reaching its full potential.

Major barriers to women’s and girls’ empowerment are becoming more pronounced under COVID-19. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by disruptions to services and have fewer opportunities to reach their potential.

The Timor-Leste Government’s response to COVID-19 was effective in preventing the spread of the pandemic in 2020. However, there was a surge of cases in a number of municipalities across Timor-Leste in early 2021.

COVID-19 is undermining development progress and exacerbating existing vulnerabilities. Reductions in income are constraining households’ ability to meet basic needs and access sufficient nutritious food; school closures have weakened children’s learning outcomes; and lockdowns have increased the risk of violence against women and children (VAWC).

Australia has been Timor-Leste’s primary partner in its immediate COVID-19 response and recovery. We have drawn upon existing partnerships and investments, while deploying new resources, to support Timor-Leste’s response across several sectors.

Under the leadership of the Ministry of Health, Australia upgraded Timor-Leste’s three COVID-19 isolation facilities and provided equipment and expertise to establish in-country testing. We pivoted existing programs – in social protection, food security, and VAWC services and prevention – to channel resources to support Timor-Leste’s response and ensure the most vulnerable people are not left behind.

Beyond the immediate health response, Australia is working in partnership with the Timor-Leste Government to deliver long-term human development outcomes, grow and diversify the economy, and support the resilience of institutions and communities.

For more information on Australia’s support to Timor-Leste’s COVID-19 response, see the Australian Embassy in Timor-Leste’s COVID-19 newsletters.

Australia’s $304.7 million COVID-19 Response Package will provide support to the Pacific and Timor-Leste to deliver critical, temporary, economic support to address pandemic impacts; this targeted, temporary (ODA) funding is for two years and is in addition to Australia’s $4 billion ODA program. Funding from this package will help Timor-Leste maintain essential health and other services, protect the most vulnerable people and support economic recovery.

Health security in Timor-Leste

Australia is proud to have worked closely with Timor‑Leste to pivot programs quickly across the health sector to support surveillance, testing, isolation facilities and health worker training.

As we pivot to respond to COVID-19, we will maintain support for the broader health sector and the delivery of essential services. Strong health systems deliver life-saving care and form the critical foundation for health security and the effective management of communicable diseases such as COVID-19 as Timor-Leste adapts to a new global normal.

Our support for Timor-Leste’s health care system will be complemented by efforts in other sectors to help tackle the multidimensional problem of malnutrition. We will also focus on improving access to water, sanitation, and hygiene promotion. Our support for health security will continue to prioritise gender equality and disability inclusion.

Further information on programs addressing health security in Timor-Leste.

Stability in Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste, a young nation, is working to strengthen its institutions that underpin stability and security. We are working with Timor-Leste to extend programs that deliver opportunities and services to people, especially in rural areas.

We will partner with the Timor-Leste Government on investments that help to enhance people’s trust in their institutions. We will build on our long-running partnerships, which have improved coordination and logistics for the COVID-19 response, to foster more effective and gender-responsive security institutions.

Australia will work with Timor-Leste to strengthen social protection programs that support households and communities, including people with disabilities, during this period of heightened vulnerability and beyond.

To promote food security, we are supporting farmers to grow and market their products and respond to biosecurity threats, so that supplies of nutritious food are not interrupted.

We will continue to support essential services to respond to VAWC, which is likely to increase at times of movement restrictions and heightened strain on households. We will support communities and the government to take action to prevent VAWC. We will also support local advocates and maintain our own advocacy so that the voices of women and girls are amplified and considered in policies and programs.

Further information on programs addressing stability in Timor-Leste.

Economic recovery in Timor-Leste

Australia is supporting a more resilient and diversified economy and helping to enhance connectivity in Timor-Leste. We will support Timor-Leste’s national systems for public financial management and regulatory reforms for better governance. This will help Timor-Leste to more effectively support its people in COVID-19 recovery and beyond.

Australia will invest in quality infrastructure and connectivity as part of Timor-Leste’s economic recovery. We will partner with the Timor-Leste Government to support labour-intensive rural road works and village-level infrastructure grants, helping to connect people in rural areas to services and economic opportunities. We will increase investment in Timor-Leste’s national economic infrastructure through transformational projects including a fibre optic submarine cable and proposed upgrades to Dili’s international airport.

We will invest in education through improving teaching quality and school learning, and strengthening technical and vocational education institutions. Our Australia Awards scholarships and short courses will help to build a pipeline of highly qualified and respected professionals and leaders. Across our programs, we will target increased skills development and employment opportunities for women and people with a disability. As borders reopen, we will support pathways to labour mobility, especially for women.

Our support to private sector growth will continue, especially in tourism, coffee and other agricultural products, to manage the disruptions caused by COVID-19 and improve the long-term prospects for trade and economic growth.

Further information on programs addressing economic recovery in Timor-Leste.

Australia’s development efforts are set out in Partnerships for Recovery: Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response.

Our results

Key recent achievements that Australian development assistance has delivered in Timor-Leste include:

  • improved testing capacity at national and municipal laboratories enabling Timor-Leste to conduct up to 2,000 COVID-19 tests daily
  • comprehensive support for the roll out of vaccines, including provision of 577,850 Australian-manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine doses as of 11 August 2021
  • working with the national medical store (SAMES) to develop the policy and procurement systems to source medical supplies quickly and at competitive prices. This improved the availability of the 100 most important items, from less than 60 per cent in 2017 to 99 per cent in 2020-21
  • deployment of a second Australian Medical Assistance Team that strengthened critical care systems in isolation treatment centres to help manage the COVID-19 outbreaks in the second half of 2021 and future outbreaks
  • in the wake of the April 2021 floods, the provision of more than 96 tonnes of emergency relief and COVID-19 response supplies to people in evacuation centres and affected communities
  • the delivery of around 23 million litres of potable water and installation of 111 water tanks in evacuation centres and communities across Dili that did not have access to clean water
  • support to the Timor-Leste Government to deliver emergency cash payments to 95 per cent of households (more than 298,000 families across Timor-Leste)
  • ensuring women and children survivors of violence continued to have access to safe and high-quality services during the COVID-19 pandemic, including by updating quarantine procedures to keep shelters open
  • funding 161 community infrastructure projects in villages across Timor-Leste which provided local residents with more than 7,500 days of paid work
  • changing farmers’ behaviour and reducing pig deaths (saving on average two pigs per household) through a campaign that raised awareness about African Swine Fever
  • the provision of policy and technical advice for the development of a government stimulus package to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the economy.

How we will work

As Timor-Leste’s largest development partner, we will lead by example, providing predictable funding and working with other development partners so that our joint efforts align with Timor-Leste’s Foreign Aid Policy and Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030.

Consistent with Timor-Leste’s Foreign Aid Policy and our own risk management policies, we will progressively increase our use of Timor-Leste’s government systems. In 2020, we provided $7 million in direct budget support – complemented by technical assistance – to contribute to community infrastructure grants as part of the COVID-19 recovery. We will explore further opportunities to provide direct budget support.

We will work with Timor-Leste to maximise the quality and accountability of its spending, so that Timor-Leste’s natural resources result in better services and opportunities for all. We will work across the Timor-Leste system – from Dili through to municipal authorities – to advise Government and test new ways of doing business. We are committed to technically sound and politically feasible approaches and will maintain flexibility to respond to emerging opportunities.

Australian Government agencies will work together in a coordinated whole-of-government approach to make the most of the full suite of ODA and non-ODA investments in Timor-Leste’s development and recovery. And we will increase the benefit Timor-Leste sees from our regional and global initiatives, including NGO and volunteer programs which work directly with rural communities, and international partnerships. We will draw upon the deep people-to-people links and community-level partnerships – including between veterans and friendship groups – between our nations.

Connect with the Australian Embassy in Timor-Leste through Facebook and Twitter.

Back to top