AVI plans to rebuild Timor-Leste program

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Following the deterioration of security in Timor-Leste, Australian Volunteers International (AVI) evacuated most of its 51 volunteers in May 2006. As the country works to restore peace and order, AVI is now focused on rebuilding and resuming its volunteer program in Timor-Leste.

Prior to evacuation AVI's Timor-Leste volunteers were working with local government, NGO and community based organisations. Volunteers were based in Baucau, Bobonaro, Cova Lima, Dili, Lautem and Liquica districts on assignments from three to 36 months. With the deterioration of the security situation AVI made the decision to evacuate most volunteers out of Dili on 25 May and Baucau on 30 May. AVI assessed that three volunteers were able to remain in-country. Post-evacuation most volunteers immediately attended debriefing sessions or were offered debriefing sessions in their capital city. They also received emergency payments and other support.

AVI, with the support of its stakeholders, is determined to rebuild the program to its previous level as the largest Australian volunteer program in Timor-Leste. AVI has a duty of care to volunteers and will not return volunteers to Timor-Leste until AVI has assessed that there is a manageable level of risk. This assessment will be done on a case-by-case basis in collaboration with our stakeholders in Timor-Leste and Australia.

In the meantime AVI is liaising with employers about their need for an AVI volunteer, their capacity to receive the volunteer and implement activities, and to review the local security situation.

When AVI is confident that security for its volunteers is at an acceptable level of risk management the organisation will begin recruiting qualified and experienced former volunteers (returned volunteers) as a priority, provide Australian-based and/or in-country orientations for the reactivated volunteers, and continue to assist our partners in-country. AVI will also reopen its Dili office.

The significant skills and experience of AVI's returned volunteers are still being used in Timor-Leste. As well its three current volunteers, several returned volunteers have returned, independently, to Timor-Leste to work with their previous host organisations, while others are working with international agencies on relief operations. They are using the same excellent professional, cultural and language skills that they demonstrated in their assignments in their new roles. Other returned volunteers remain in Australia waiting for the opportunity to return to Timor-Leste through the AVI program.

AVI would like to acknowledge the support and commitment of all of our current and returned volunteers and our partner organisations in Timor-Leste and Australia to assist in resuming the AVI program.

AVI remains firmly committed to the program of development cooperation with the people of Timor-Leste.

Australian Volunteers International (AVI) manages a range of volunteer programs and projects in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Pacific. Our largest program is the Australian Volunteer Program, funded by AusAID the Australian Government's overseas aid program, and managed in collaboration with other agencies.

For more information contact:
Christine Crosby, Publicity & Media Relations
Ph: (03) 9279 1763
Mob: 0411 605 210
Email: ccrosby@australianvolunteers.com