Overview of Australia's aid program to Timor-Leste

How we are helping

2016-17 Total Australian ODA Estimated Outcome
$93.4 million

2017-18 Bilateral Budget Estimate
$68.0 million

2017-18 Total Australian ODA Estimate
$96.1 million

The Australian Government will provide an estimated $96.1 million in total ODA to Timor-Leste in 2017-18. This will include an estimated $68.0 million in bilateral funding to Timor-Leste managed by DFAT.

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. We assist in three strategic areas – economy, people and society. 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 is now at an important moment in its history. It has made impressive economic development, social progress and stability gains since independence, but still faces major challenges 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. The private sector faces difficulties including 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).


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 assist the Timor-Leste Government to enable private sector development through policy, regulatory and legal reform. Australia also 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 strengthening Timor-Leste's economy


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 - particularly 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 improving wellbeing


We also work to improve society, by making it easier for people to participate in 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 be involved in decisions about how to develop and improve their villages. We are assisting the Office of the Prime Minister to implement new public financial management reforms to improve transparency of government budget allocations and service delivery.

Investments for strengthening Timor-Leste's society

Our results

In 2016-17 examples of our work and achievements included:

  • generating over $450,000 in extra income for 2,950 farmers and leveraging over $1.8 million in private investment through our Market Development Facility
  • training 250 midwives in safe and clean birth delivery in rural health centres and posts through our midwife training program
  • training 327 teachers and school leaders across 233 schools, reaching over 20,000 students, with early indications of improved student literacy and teaching practice in classrooms
  • distributing curriculum material to over 94 per cent of remote primary and secondary schools through our Professional Learning and Mentoring program
  • assisting the Timor-Leste Government improve the business environment and promote private sector development by passing new laws that encourage investment, make it easier to set up and run businesses and increase commercial certainty
  • preparing 477 unskilled workers from Timor-Leste for seasonal work on Australian farms and in the accommodation industry
  • helping the Timorese Government improve its rural road network. In 2016, 41 contracts were awarded to 36 local contractors, which resulted in 47 kilometres of rehabilitated roads and 353 kilometres of maintained roads

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 2015 Official Development Assistance (ODA) accounted for less than 6 per cent of the budget compared to 75 per cent in 2002. Australia is responding by focusing on assisting Timor-Leste to leverage 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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Last Updated: 22 February 2018