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Dr Kirsty
Sword Gusmão OAM

Passionate humanitarian and educator.


Dr Kirsty Sword Gusmão OAM was born in Melbourne Australia in 1966. She attended Melbourne University where she completed a Bachelor of Arts Honours, majoring in Indonesian and Italian and also earned a Diploma of Education.

Current work

The Xanana Gusmão Reading Room was established in the same year and Kirsty continues as the Patron and Chair of this library now housed in the Sentru Kulturál Xanana in Dili.

Previous experience

Oxford: In 1991, after working as an Administrative Secretary with the Overseas Service Bureau Australian Volunteers International, Dr Sword Gusmão joined the Refugee Studies Program at Oxford University as Assistant to the Development Coordinator.

Documentary: During that same year she travelled to Timor-Leste (East Timor) as the Researcher and Interpreter for the Yorkshire Television documentary production In Cold Blood: The Massacre of East Timor which covered political and social developments in the territory.

Teacher: From 1992 to 1996, she lived and worked as a teacher and human rights campaigner in Jakarta, Indonesia. It was during these years that her work for the Timorese independence cause intensified and brought Kirsty into contact with the leader of the resistance, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, who at that time was serving a twenty year sentence in a prison in Jakarta and whom she married in July, 2000.

Founder: Kirsty moved to Timor-Leste in 1999, and was the Founder and Chairwoman of the Alola Foundation which she established in 2001 to address the needs of Timorese women and their families.

Ambassador: In October 2007, the then President Dr. José Ramos Horta appointed Kirsty as Goodwill Ambassador for Education, and during that term she established and chaired the Timor-Leste National Commission for UNESCO and remains the President of the National Education Commission for Education. Reappointed by President Taur Matan Ruak as Goodwill Ambassador for Education in 2012, Kirsty remains passionate about the issues of language policy and language of instruction in schools in Timor-Leste. She is collaborating with the Ministry of Education in the design and implementation of pilot programs aimed at giving a role to the nation’s 30 local languages in the attainment of literacy.

CAfe: Dr Sword Gusmão founded the Dare Memorial Museum and Café in 2009 with a view to honouring and giving meaning to the legacy of the 2/2nd and 2/4th Commandos and also to contributing to the payment of the 'debt of honour' owed to the countless Timorese and others who lost their lives during World War II.

Cancer Group: Kirsty founded the women's cancer group, HALIKU in March 2014. HALIKU works closely with the Ministry of Health to provide vital educational programs on prevention and early diagnosis of women's cancers and the promotion of general well-being.

Awards: Also in 2014, Kirsty was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Victoria University in recognition of her outstanding service to the community of Timor-Leste through her dedication to promoting the importance of education and improving the lives of women and children.

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