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ASTUTE personnel farewell Timor-Leste orphanages

Australian Defence Force personnel join local children for the Orphanage Christmas Party held at Forward Operating Base Phoenix, Dili, Timor-Leste.

Operation ASTUTE Padre Stephen Bennett says Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel can hold their heads high after sharing Christmas with children in orphanages in Timor-Leste.

About 40 children were hosted at Camp Phoenix in Dili for a Christmas party and final farewell as Australian personnel and equipment prepare to return home after almost 13 years of support to Asia’s youngest nation.

He said the Christmas party for children of the St Bakhita and St Clara Orphanages was a fitting farewell to continuous ADF involvement with the children and their care providers.

“Australian Defence Force personnel have been unbelievable in their ongoing emotional support through visits, interaction and donations of their own personal items to help make a difference to the lives of these children over the years,” Padre Bennett said.

“A lot of people, right back to the start of the International Stabilisation Force (ISF) in 2006, have been maintaining a continuous connection to provide these children with hope for the future and improve their quality of life.

“Many of these kids will grow up with a very fond appreciation of the ADF, but most importantly, they’ll remember the kindness and compassion of strangers and hopefully follow that philosophy in their adult lives.

“This is a legacy we are leaving behind that we can all be very proud of.”

Personnel from the ISF have hosted the children on several occasions during the past year with others donating their limited spare time to volunteer at the orphanages.

The emotional support often involves craft activities, making cards with the kids, playing soccer, board games, colouring-in, painting and making bracelets.

The Christmas Party at Camp Phoenix gave the children an opportunity to sing Christmas carols with the visiting Forces Entertainment Tour that included Rob Farnham, Amber Nichols and comedian Doug Chappel.

ADF personnel also joined the kids for a viewing of the film Santa Claus, plenty of face painting, a soccer game and a visit by Santa Claus who delivered gifts of pencil cases filled with small items and sweets for the kids.

One of those involved in the festivities was Army Reserve Signaller, Krystelle Watts, who said being involved in the Christmas celebrations for the children is a memory she will treasure forever.

“It was just so heart-warming to be involved in Christmas for the local orphanages particularly just to see their smiles when I was painting their faces––they were just so excited.

“It was good we were able to provide a final farewell at such a special time of the year.”

Australian troops started to depart Timor-Leste in late November 2012 and bases will be remediated for handover by mid-2013.

Australia’s Defence and Police engagement with Timor-Leste will continue through our Defence Cooperation Program and Australian Federal Police support to Timor-Leste’s police forces. 

Through our aid program, Australia is strongly committed to its partnership with Timor-Leste to provide ongoing assistance to support the Government of Timor-Leste to achieve greater prosperity.