About Us

Alola FOundation- Kristy with a mother and Baby


The Alola Foundation was established in 2001 by Kirsty Sword Gusmão, the former First Lady of Timor-Leste. The initial focus of the Alola Foundation was to raise awareness and campaign against sexual and gender-based violence in Timor-Leste.

The Foundation has grown to include a wider range of programs that assist the women and children of Timor-Leste. Programs such as advocacy, economic empowerment, education and literacy, and maternal and child health.

For years, the Alola Foundation has worked proactively in direct partnership with individual citizens and local and international non-profit organisations, as well as the Timor-Leste Government to improve the lives of the women and children of Timor-Leste.

Due to Timor-Leste‘s lack of legal infrastructure back in 2001, the Alola Foundation was established as a company limited by guarantee, Alola Foundation Ltd, under Australian law. However, we’re proud to say that in 2008, the Alola Foundation became the first organization to register as an NGO in Timor-Leste and is known by its Tetum name, “Fundasaun Alola”.

At the same time in order  to continue to promote the work in Australia, a new charitable organisation known as Alola Australia Ltd was formed. Alola Australia is managed by volunteers in Australia working in partnership with Fundasaun Alola

How we work

Our Mission

To partner with Fundasaun Alola in enabling women and families in Timor-Leste to build a strong future.

Our Objectives

• Raise awareness, funds and create links within Australia

• Build a strong and sustainable organisation in Australia

Our Goals

• To raise at least $100,000 for the programs of Fundasaun Alola

• To strengthen and improve governance

• Increase awareness in Australia of Fundasaun Alola’s work

• To recruit volunteers to meet the promotional activity and skill needs of the organisation

• To align with and live the partnership agreement with Fundasaun Alola’s

Our Values

    • Solidarity
    • Volunteerism
    • Integrity
    • Cultural Understanding
    • Accountability
    • Inclusiveness
    • Respect
    • Flexibility

Our Strategic Plans

Available to download here: Strategic Plan Alola 2018_2020


Alola Australia’s work is governed by a number of policies including: child protection; counter terrorism and privacy. For further information contact friends@alola.org.au

People involved

Our Board

as at March 2018 

Nicole Bluett-BoydNicole Bluett-Boyd brings her experience in community development, strategic governance and gender based work to Alola Australia.  She is a criminologist with extensive research history in gender-based violence in Australia and also in Timor-Leste.  She was inspired to contribute to the work of Alola Australia after witnessing the enthusiasm and innovative ideas of Timorese communities during several visits to Timor-Leste, including living there for most of 2014.  Her work on community-led responses to family violence bolstered her belief that a focus on building the strengths and capacities of women is central to the future development and prosperity of communities. Nicole joined the Board in March 2015.

Maria Bohan joined the Board in July 2011 and is the Co-Chair of the Board.  Her interest in Timor-Leste began in 1975 when Indonesia invaded and she was active in the Australian based campaign for independence.  She has education and community development qualifications and worked for eight years in development education of Australians about issues of global injustice.  Maria was the CEO of the state-wide peak body Carers Victoria for seventeen years.  She is keen to contribute her governance, advocacy, and education and training expertise to support Alola Australia’s work

Nancy Gurr’s interest in Timor-Leste began in 2004 when her husband, Steve, went there to work for 5 years.  Whenever Nandy herself visited she would go to Fundasaun Alola and it was through Steve that she met Dr Kirsty Sword Gusmão AO. Nandy encouraged her church community and her friends to support fundraising ventures in Timor-Leste, as for example, school feeding programs, books in Tetum, building a preschool, new classrooms for schools, and children’s activity centres at Dili and Baucau Hospitals. In 2017 and 2018 Nandy co-hosted with Kirsty, Study Tours to Timor-Leste offering participants opportunities to meet Timorese leaders and learn about the country.  Nandy contributes diverse skills and energy to assist Alola Australia’s important partnership with Fundasaun Alola.

Stephen Lavender joined the Board in August 2017 and has been appointed Treasurer of Alola Australia. Stephen has a decades long interest in issues of international justice, including with Timor-Leste one of our nearest neighbours. Stephen believes that Australia has a unique link and special responsibility to support Timor-Leste.  Knowing that supporting women achieve justice and equitable development is recognized as being of crucial importance, Stephen is keen to support the work of Fundasaun Alola and Alola Australia.  Stephen has over 20 years’ experience in financial management in the Not For Profit sector and currently volunteers and serves on Boards in several Not For Profit agencies, inc Oxfam, New Internationalist and the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre.

Jacky Mandelbaum joined the Board in October 2016. During her time at the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment in New York, she worked on projects in Timor-Leste looking in particular at how to leverage the oil investments for sustainable development. Jacky learned of the important and high impact work done by Fundasaun Alola after having her first child and is keen to support the women in Timor-Leste. She has worked as a lawyer in corporate law for 15 years on litigation, commercial law and governance. When in New York Jacky looked at how to maximise the impacts of international investment for sustainable development. Jacky is Alola Australia’s Company Secretary.

Christine PerkinsChristine Perkins met Timorese refugees in Melbourne in 1980 and has had an interest in Timor-Leste’s struggle for self-determination and development ever since. She has been involved in various organisations supporting the people of Timor-Leste as an activist and community development worker and has designed and managed NGO Capacity Building Projects as well as managing a volunteer program for Timor-Leste.  Christine believes in the dignity of each and every person. As an experienced development practitioner, knowledgeable in contemporary development theory, she has been involved in providing training in a variety of development contexts. Christine returned to the Board in February 2015 (she was the first Chair of the Board in 2008) after stepping down in December 2014 from the role as Alola Australia’s Administration Manager.

Natalie SavinNatalie Savin joined the Board in June 2014 and is Deputy Chair and Convenor of the Audit and Risk Management Committee. Natalie has been involved in Timor-Leste issues since 1975. Her background is in public policy, with senior executive roles in local and state government. Most recently, she has been Chief Executive Officer of Arthritis Victoria, followed by a number of interim roles in a number of not for profit organisations to assist in recruiting senior executives whilst holding the positions. Natalie has maintained a long interest in access to oral health services. She is currently co-convenor of the Victorian Oral Health Special Interest Group for the Public Health Association of Australia.

Helen RookerHelen Skinner is the Co-Chair of the board. Helen has a general interest in development across the Asia-Pacific region, particularly as it relates to the lives of women and children. She is passionate about promoting gender equality, diversity and inclusion and is excited about contributing to strong governance in the Not-for-Profit sector. Helen currently works in PwC’s Risk Assurance practice and has 13 years’ experience in providing internal audit, risk management and compliance services across pubic and Not-for-Profit organisations. Helen is an active member of PwC’s gender equality committee. Helen joined the Board in February 2016.

Avo Advisers are respected elder women who have or have had, a particular association with Timor-Leste and/or Fundasaun Alola. They are appointed by the Board and their role is to provide wise counsel on Alola Australia’s activities, especially on matters that may require sensitivity and reconciliation. The term ‘avo’ is from the Tetum term avo feto meaning grandmother or avo ferik meaning old woman, it is a term or respect.

Avos may meet as an advisory group or may be approached individually.

Unless the Board determines otherwise, the appointment of Avos will be until the resignation of the Avo.

Alola Australia’s Avos are:

Melanie Atkins has been involved with Alola since 2006.  After a volunteering holiday in Timor-Leste she began working with the then Alola Foundation in Melbourne. She then went on to work with a great group of women to establish Alola Australia in its own entity and with the aim of supporting Fundasaun Alola’s work in Timor-Leste.  She was on the Board for three years until 2010 and now continues her significant voluntary involvement in fundraising events and support with administration management.  She continues to visit Timor-Leste.

Jan Donovan joined the Board in March 2010 and was formally the Deputy Chair. Jan has visited Timor-Leste many times and lived there in 2008/09 while working at the Dili International School as the English Language Coordinator. She is committed to the alleviation of poverty in Timor- Leste and to supporting women’s and children’s access to education. Jan has held several senior policy and executive positions in the community sector and is skilled in governance through her work on not-for-profit health Boards. Jan is currently a member and chair of the Audit and Risk Committee of the Consumers Health Forum Board and was recently appointed by the Minister for Health to the Ehealth Implementation Taskforce Steering Committee. She is a health consumer advocate and an advocate for women’s and children’s education.

Jill Forsyth is one of the founders of Alola Australia and was on the Board for four years until 2012.  She is a former midwife and business women and has contributed these skills significantly to Alola.  She is a member of the Rotary Club of Kew and leads the bi-annual Garden DesignFest which supports Alola.  She is also coordinator of the MILK campaign and is passionate about Alola’s Maternity Packs.  She also supports women’s business initiatives in Timor-Leste including the Baucau soap producers and the recycled paper enterprise KorTimor.

Wendy Mayne was a member of the Board from 2010 to 2014 and has remained an active volunteer and Avo since then. Wendy is committed to Alola Australia continuing to practice a genuine and respectful partnership with Fundasaun Alola, is keen to promote awareness and to facilitate the participation of the Australian community in supporting the great work of Fundasaun Alola. Wendy is a member of the newsletter production and facebook administration teams and the project group set up to promote the sale of Timorese handcrafts in Australia. Wendy studied international community development at Victoria University. Her expertise lies in children’s rights and child protection.

Rosalie Sword is a teacher and her belief is that education is the right of all citizens, regardless of ethnic or socio-economic background. Her commitment to social justice has stood her in good stead in providing support to her daughter, Kirsty Sword Gusmão.  When Kirsty set up the Alola Foundation to contribute to the development of women and children in Timor-Leste, Rosalie was there from the beginning, calling on Australians to do what they could to assist Alola’s work in Timor-Leste. Rosalie was also a mainstay of the Australia East Timor Friendship School Project and in 2002 together with Kirsty set up the ‘Nio-Rosalia’ Pre-school near Dare in Timor-Leste. She personally mentored and assisted the local teachers to provide a child-centred and stimulating learning environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. When did Alola Australia start?

“The Alola Foundation” (Fundasaun Alola) was established in 2001 in Timor-Leste to raise awareness about gender-based violence and conduct various development programs to assist the women and children of Timor-Leste.

 In 2008, “Alola Australia Ltd‟ (Alola Australia) was set up in Australia. Its aim is to work together with The Alola Foundation (Fundasaun Alola)  to support the development of women and children in Timor-Leste.

  1. What is the vision and focus of Alola Australia?

Our vision is; “Strong women, strong Nation” and our main objective is to support development programs for women and children in Timor-Leste through our major in-country partner organisation Fundasaun Alola.

Alola Australia supports four key programs for the benefit of women and children in Timor-Leste:

  • Advocacy: Promoting the rights of women & children through the National Women’s Resource Centre and District Support Worker projects
  • Education and Literacy: Expanding education opportunities through scholarships, teacher training and Mother Tongue and Tetum literacy materials
  • Maternal and Child Health: Promoting infant and young child feeding (breastfeeding and complementary feeding); Supporting newborn care programs; Safe Motherhood Initiative – Implementing Birth Preparedness Plan; Community Management of Acute Malnutrition.
  • Economic Development: Supporting women’s small business ideas in particular the production and sale of traditional handicrafts.

Alola Australia supports these programs by promoting awareness of development issues and raising funds through the Alola Timor-Leste Development fund.

  1. Who Founded Alola?

The Alola Foundation was established in 2001 by Kirsty Sword Gusmão, the then First Lady of Timor-Leste. The initial focus of the Alola Foundation was to raise awareness and campaign against sexual and gender-based violence in Timor-Leste.

The Foundation has grown to include development programs that enable women and families in Timor-Leste to build a strong future: Programs such as advocacy, economic empowerment, education and literacy, and maternal and child health.

  1. How is Alola Australia Governed?

 Alola Australia is a not-for-profit charitable organisation and is comprised of a Board of Professional women who are all volunteering their expertise in diverse ways. There is information available about each Board member on the Alola Australia website: https://www.alola.org.au/about-us/#people Each person has a Portfolio and project area of focus. The Board meets monthly to coordinate the work of the organisation guided by a strategic plan that is developed in partnership with Fundasaun Alola. Volunteers in a range of ways, also generously support Alola Australia and we continue to receive offers of this valuable support.

  1. What projects are Alola Australia supporting in Timor-Leste?

 Alola Australia works in partnership with Fundasaun Alola to make positive and sustainable changes in the lives of women and children in Timor-Leste. Projects are initiated and managed by Fundasaun Alola and our goal is to support their initiatives, as our collaboration with Fundasaun Alola involves responding to issues that they identify as important. Our role is to be a responsive and supportive collaborator, committed to building the capacity of our partner. Together we bring and build knowledge, experience and resources to address our shared priorities.

  1. What kinds of challenges do women face in Timor-Leste?

 There are multiple disadvantages that women face. These include limited access to education, barriers to employment, high fertility rates, poor health status and exposure to high rates of domestic and sexual violence.

  1. a) How much and how often do we send money to Fundasaun Alola?

 We send AU$100, 000 per year to Fundasaun Alola and the funds are transferred every 3 months.

         b) How much do we spend on Administration?

Administration costs are kept at a minimum, with one day per week funded for our Administration services. We do not pay rent or other overheads and all other tasks are carried out by volunteers.

  1. How do you know how the funds are being spent?

Both Fundasaun Alola and Alola Australia’s finances are audited annually by external auditors. Annual reports detailing projects and expenditure by Fundasaun Alola are tabled and shared on their website. The projects Fundasaun Alola focuses upon are the result of extensive monitoring and evaluation to ensure they are meeting the actual needs of the communities they work in.

  1. Can you give examples of their work?

 Fundasaun Alola works closely with the Ministry of Health and have greatly contributed to these improvements:

  • Timor-Leste is one of the few countries on track to meet the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal No. 4 to reduce under-5 mortality by two-thirds by 2015
  • Rates of infant and under-five mortality have declined by approximately 50% since 2001 in Timor-Leste. Fundasaun Alola’s work in the Maternal and Child health field has contributed very directly to this encouraging achievement.
  • In 2014, they provided Infant & Young Child Feeding promotion (IYCF), Safe Motherhood, Newborn Care & birth spacing training to Mother Support Group (MSG) and Suku Hadomi Inan ho Oan (SHIO) group members. The course, which consists of 18 sessions, was conducted twice in clinical practice through home visits to lactating women whose baby is less than two weeks of age. This enables MSG/SHIO members to practice the knowledge and skills gained during the training. IYCF training sessions include breastfeeding, complementary feeding, counselling skills, infant feeding with mothers who are HIV positive and infant feeding in emergency situations as well as maternal nutrition.
  1. How can I support Alola?
  • Become a Friend of Alola

By joining our mailing list and staying in-touch via our quarterly newsletter and receiving up-dates about our campaigns and events.

  • Become a Volunteer

We welcome volunteers to help out in a range of ways, which may include assisting with mail outs and administrative tasks, selling Timorese handicrafts, assisting at events or coordinating your own fundraising events for Alola Australia. Also raising awareness in your community, by being a friend and an advocate for Alola Australia is also very important and valued.

Directly volunteering with Fundasaun Alola in Timor-Leste, may be possible depending on the skills, both language and work related skills of the volunteer, as well as the requirements of Fundasaun Alola. Please contact: friends(at)alola.org.au for more information.

  • Make a Donation

We welcome donations to our annual campaigns and events so that we can then support Fundasaun Alola’s programs. We also have gift certificates available for purchasing via our website for a special occasion – these are to provide specific support for example: buying a maternity pack for a pregnant woman, or to give a scholarship to a female student to support a year of her schooling.

Our Supporters

Alola Australia would like to thank all who have helped us with our work. In particular, we would like to thank the following organisations. Learn more about each of these organisations by clicking on the organisation name).

The Shannon Company


Artificial Studios – Jorge de Araujo Photography  Many of the images of people and places in Timor-Leste used by Alola Australia were taken by Jorge de Araujo. You can purchase photos too from Jorge’s photos

Holding Redlich

Rotary Club of Kew