Defence Cooperation Program (DCP): Timor-Leste

Defence Cooperation Program (DCP): Timor-Leste


The Australian Defence Cooperation Program (DCP) in Timor-Leste has been operating since early 2001. As part of broader regional DCP activities in the Pacific region, the DCP in Timor aims to assist the development of the Timor-Leste Defence Force through military training, advice and support. The Defence Cooperation Program is conducted independently of the ADF military commitment to the UN’s mission in Timor-Leste.

DCP costs in Timor Leste amounted to $6.45 million (2005-06), $5.10 million (2006-07) and $9.23 million (2007-08).

Government sources

Operation Tower, Australian Defence Force website

“The Defence Cooperation Program conducts a range of activities and projects with the Timor-Leste Defence Force, embracing training and advisory roles such as:

    • English language instruction to prepare military personnel for further military education and training opportunities;
    • Leadership training, development and skills enhancement for junior military personnel;
    • Higher-level staff training in the areas of command, leadership and discipline and military planning, logistics and administration;
    • Communications, equipment and management training to support the military command network;
    • Senior level Ministry of Defence and military advice, including capability and force development, military doctrine, financial, communications and finance and budget coordination advice.

“The Australian Government has allocated up to $40 million over an initial five-year period to support the Defence Cooperation Program in Timor-Leste. This level of expenditure is expected to continue again over the next five-year period. A major Australian contribution under the Program is the $7.5 million construction of a training centre for the Timor-Leste Defence Force at Metinaro.

“Currently, about seventeen Defence personnel are deployed to Timor-Leste to support this Program. These personnel are located in Dili, Metinaro and Baucau.”


Minister for Defence opens Specialist Training Wing in East Timor, Minister for Defence Joel Fitzgibbon, media release, Min 30/09, 6 March 2009

The Minister for Defence, The Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP, was joined by East Timor’s Prime Minister, Mr Xanana Gusmao, to officially open the Specialist Training Wing at the East Timor Defence Force Metinaro Training Base in East Timor today.

“ ‘I am pleased to announce the opening of the $6 million Specialist Training Wing for the East Timor Defence Force at their training base in Metinaro,’ said Mr Fitzgibbon. ‘This was a key project under the auspices of our bilateral Defence Cooperation Program.’

The Defence Cooperation Program with East Timor was established in 2001 and focuses on helping the East Timorese establish a professional, sustainable and affordable Defence Force. Key activities under the Program include training through embedded ADF advisers, education programs and large infrastructure projects, such as the Specialist Training Wing.

“ ‘The Specialist Training Wing will provide high quality specialist training for the East Timor Defence Force in areas such as communications, logistics, engineering and medical skills delivered by Australian Defence Cooperation Program personnel,’ Mr Fitzgibbon said. ‘This Training Wing symbolises the enduring commitment to developing East Timor’s Defence Force, and is testament to the hard work and drive displayed by both Australian Defence Cooperation Program staff and the East Timor Defence Force.’


Defence Report 2007-08, Volume 1, Department of Defence, pp82-3

In 2007-08, the DCP with East Timor continued to provide support for training programs and capacity development activities for the East Timor Defence Force (F-FDTL) and the East Timor Secretariat of Defence (SED). Defence’s 18 in-country advisers have continued to provide training in English language, governance, financial management, defence and security sector reform, engineering, civil-military cooperation, medical, logistics, and communications for both the F-FDTL and the SED. Other DCP activities included seamanship training for F-FDTL officers at the Australian Maritime College, English language training at Charles Darwin University, civil-military cooperation activities in East Timor, and adviser support during F-FDTL apprehension operations following the 11 February 2008 presidential assassination attempt. An Enhanced DCP was agreed by the Government and is being implemented over the next 12-18 months. It comprises a package of additional advisers and projects designed to build the capacity of the F-FDTL in the areas of engineering, maritime security, English language proficiency and specialist training.”

Minister for Defence meets with East Timor Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, Minister for Defence Joel Fitzgibbon, media release 105/08, 25 August 2008

Mr Fitzgibbon noted construction has commenced on a $5.7 million Specialist Training Wing for the East Timorese Defence Force (F-FDTL) at Metinaro, which will provide training for the F-FDTL in specialist areas such as engineering, logistics, communications and medical skills. Construction will be completed in December 2008, and instruction will formally begin with the posting of five ADF personnel to the centre in January 2009.

The Specialist Training Wing is funded by the DCP in East Timor.  The DCP was established in 2001, with the focus on aiding the East Timorese in establishing a professional, sustainable and affordable Defence Force appropriate to East Timor’s needs….Prime Minister Gusmao will also visit HMAS Waterhen in Sydney tomorrow to get an overview of the functions and capability of a modern Naval base.  Australia is committed to supporting East Timor enhance its maritime security capability through the Defence Cooperation Programme.”

Australia Supports Training of East Timorese Defence Force, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Media Release, 25 August 2008

“The Prime Minister welcomed today the commencement of construction of a new specialist training wing for the East Timor Defence Force (F-FDTL) funded by the Australian Government’s Defence Cooperation Program. The new facility, to be built at a cost of $5.7 million, is being constructed at the F-FDTL’s training base in Metinaro, East Timor. ..The Australian Government will provide more than $8 million in assistance to East Timor through the Defence Cooperation Program this year, increasing to $13 million in 2009-10.”


Strong in Defence: Timor-Leste and Australia, Defence Magazine, Department of Defence, Issue 9, 2007-08, p39.

“The DCP is an ongoing Australian contribution to the development of Timor-Leste’s security and has concentrated on addressing some of the key capacity constraints within the Ministry of Defence and Timor-Leste’s Defence Force (F-FDTL). At present 18 Defence personnel, both ADF and civilian, implement the DCP. The DCP has developed a state-of-the-art training facility for the F-FDTL at Metinaro; trained numerous F-FDTL personnel in English language and general education both in Timor-Leste and Australia; provided assistance to engineering capability development; and has facilitated the training of several F-FDTL officers at the Royal Military College Duntroon. Through 2008 the DCP will continue to implement major infrastructure projects such as developing a specialist training facility at the Metinaro training base and training F-FDTL members in the areas of engineering, communications and English language.”

Defence Co-operation Program, Australian Defence Force website, 28 August 2007

“The Defence Cooperation Program in Timor-Leste is a commitment by the Australian government and the ADF to help to develop a capable and sustainable Timorese Defence force. There are currently 20 ADF personnel deployed to Timor Leste as part of the program. Previous members of Defence Cooperation have established that it is worth coming to Timor for one to two year postings in order to build better relationships with the FFDTL.”

Responses to questions taken on notice from the Department of Defence, Inquiry into Australia’s involvement in Peacekeeping Operations, Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Commonwealth of Australia Senate, ; 24 July 2007, p. 15 – 20, 23

“Could you clarify the role of ATSTEM [Australian Training Support Team East Timor] and the relationship between ATSTEM and other forces present in Timor Leste at the time?

RESPONSE – “The Australian Training Support Team East Timor (ATST-EM) was responsible for all direct ADF cooperation training for the East Timor Defence Force (ETDF). The team’s functions included delivering specialist training, such as English language training and assisting ETDF personnel in preparation for, and subsequent management of, the ETDF Training School. The team also provided advisers to the ETDF’s 1st Battalion.

“The team was a separate entity from UN peacekeeping forces and was deployed under the auspiced of the bilateral Defence Cooperation Program to conduct training that supported the development of the ETDF…” (p.15)

Minister of Defence Dr. Brendan Nelson’s response to questions in writing by Mr. McClelland 7 December 2006, Question No.4968, Commonwealth of Australia, House of Representatives Hansard, February 28 2007 p.207 – 209

“Dr Nelson …(2) No specific humanitarian law training has been provided to the F-FDTL by Australia in East Timor…

(3) (a) to (f) Australia’s DCP with East Timor differs from our defence cooperation relationship with Iraq. As a primary donor to East Timor in both defence and broader development assistance, Australia’s level of defence development assistance to East Timor is greater than that provided to Iraq…F-FDTL cadets who attend the Royal Military College in Canberra undertake some training in the Law of Armed Conflict and Rules of Engagement. I am not aware of the Government of East Timor having requested assistance in counselling or mentoring on detainee management.

(6) (a) (iii), (b) (iii) and (c) iii Our benchmarks for success will be an F-FDTL that is responsive to lawful government direction; has the capacity to meet appropriate East Timorese security needs, particularly with respect to maritime security, border security and nation building tasks.”


Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (budget estimates), Official Committee Hansard, Commonwealth of Australia Senate, 1 June, 2006, p. 33 – 42

Mr Pezzullo – …The program [consisted of] the construction of a major training facility for…the FFDTL at Metinaro…; the construction of an English language training centre; junior leadership training for FFDTL personnel both in Australia and East Timor; the provision of …civilian advisors…in the areas of strategic policy development and finance; the provision ultimately of two ADF military advisers to the headquarters; and the provision of six-person battalion advisor detachments…to each of the two battalions” (p. 36)

Humanitarian Law Training (Question No.3584), Dr. Brendan Nelson, House of Representatives Hansard, Commonwealth of Australia, Tuesday 15 August 2006, p.137 – 138

“During the lead up to the first Timorese elections (2002), the United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) appointed Falantil troops to assist in providing local security for these elections. These soldiers received basic training in orders for opening fire and detention procedures. This training was authorised by UNTAET’s Office of Defence Force Development and Australian Defence Force personnel assisted in delivering this training….

“As part of the [Defence Cooperation] Program, Australia has provided civilian advisors within the Timor-Leste Ministry of Defence on budgetary issues and defence policy. Policy advice has sought to link military planning to Government policy, endeavouring to ensure F-FDTL is apolitical.”

Joint F-FDTL/ADF training

Timor-Leste Defence Force training in Northern Territory, Australian Defence Force website, 24 May 2007

“Several serving members of the Timor-Leste Defence Force (F-FDTL) are parading at NORFORCE at Darwin’s Larrakeyah Barracks for a basic exposure to the Australian Army. They are residing at Larrakeyah Barracks in Darwin for an intensive in-country English course at Charles Darwin University, plus basic Australian Army training.

“The personnel will also face a selection process when they return home to attend officer training at the Royal Military College, Duntroon. A number will also go on to further training for liaison roles in the Timor-Leste Defence Force.”

50-calibre machine gun training, Australian Defence Force website, 27 June 2007

“Sergeant Clive Clarkson, the Troop Sergeant from the Townsville-based B Squadron 3rd/4th Cavalry Regiment conducts a pre-firing safety brief for members of the Timor-Leste Defence Force (F-FDTL) which include Lieutenant Colonel Mua Nana (right), Major Ular (centre) and Soldier Elizio Da Costa Pereira…”

“An Australian Army Bell 206B1 Kiowa Light Observer Helicopter from the Townsville-based 5th Aviation Regiment conducts observaton flights before and during a 50 calibre machine gun firing serial from Australian M113A1 Armoured Personnel Carriers on a beach in Motaikun, East Timor.”

Commentary and analysis

Australia and East Timor, Grant Sanderson, Defender, Australia Defence Association, Autumn 2007, p. 15 – 19

“But my view is shaped by my experiences as Commanding Officer of the Defence Co-operation Program in East Timor – when I received no written direction from anyone for a year…They may then shake their heads and ask why we limited the majority of our national expenditure and most of our military effort to securing the border for three years longer than necessary rather than focusing on capacity building over the rest of the country…The planners would also probably surmise that having disparate groups inside the Department of Defence nominally responsible for less disparate elements in East Timor is probably not the best way to do business.” (p.15, p. 17)

Name withheld, Submission to the Inquiry into Australia’s involvement in Peacekeeping Operations, Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Commonwealth of Australia Senate

“The Chain of Command for members posted to ATST EM was convoluted to say the least, I and members of my team were not aware of who was our overall (ATST EM) commander. I was at Metinaro and was a senior advisor to the 2nd Battalion FDTL as part of the 2ND Battalion Advisory Detachment (2BAD). All my operational orders/briefs were received from my CO ETDF/Australian ATST EM; I also received orders from the DA which implied that he was my direct commander. However I also came under the jurisdiction of the ASNCE force commander in Dili. I was also required to report to the CO ATST EM, and the HQ of the Office of the Defence Force Development EM ETDF (HQ ODFD), and the Thai Colonel who controlled the budget for the ETDF battalion as well as two senior civilian US Advisors at the HQ ODFD… (p.2)

“ATST EM  members operated at Metinaro, Dili and Los Palos… (p.4)

“Soldiers posted to ATST EM for deployment to EM  were regarded as members of SIPDEV (Diplomatic Staff)…”(p.5)

See also