The Alola Foundation was originally created to raise awareness of the widespread sexual violence against women and girls in Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor) during the militia attacks of September 1999. Formed in 2001 by Kirsty Sword Gusmao, then First Lady of East Timor, the Foundation was named after Juliana ‘Alola’ dos Santos, a 15 year old girl who was brutally raped and taken to Indonesian West Timor during that terrible time.
“I established the Alola Foundation in 2001, initially to honour the experiences of a young woman, Juliana Dos Santos, kidnapped in brutal circumstances by a militia leader in the wake of the popular consultation of August 1999. She had been taken as a war trophy across the border into West-Timor, where she remains today. Her story was sadly not uncommon at the time of the political upheaval and chaos of 1999. Being as it was emblematic of the struggle for peace and dignity of all East-Timorese women, I decided to attach Juliana’s nickname to the organisation I founded”, Kirsty Sword Gusmao said.
Kirsty Sword Gusmão was educated at the University of Melbourne and Monash University and she holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and a Diploma of Education. It was at Melbourne University that she first met students from Timor-Leste and began translating reports from the clandestine movement, making public the tales of appalling human rights abuses they told. It was during this time that she became an advocate for an independent Timor-Leste, which she remains to this day.
The Alola Foundation has grown from a budget of a few thousand Australian dollars, and a team of a handful of volunteers in 2001, to one of the nations’ most reputable NGO’s, an employer of some 100 staffs.
Though this is still a key issue for the Foundation, today we provide a wide range of vitally important hands-on support for the women and children of Timor-Leste. Please review our program pages for more information5
These are the facts in one of the most horrifying accounts to emerge from the mayhem that followed Timor Leste’s vote for independence 1999.
Juliana was one of several hundred people sheltering in the grounds of Ave Maria Roman Catholic church in Suai when it was attacked by Indonesian security forces and their Laksaur militia proxies in an unprovoked assault on Sept. 6, 1999, that left as many as 200 people dead, including three priests. Juliana dos Santos was kidnapped as a “war prize” by the deputy leader of the notorious Laksaur militia. Within days, Juliana was taken across the Indonesia border, along with tens of thousands of other Timorese, many of them against their will.
The case of Ms dos Santos has already been presented at the UN Commission for Human Rights in Geneva by the Australian-born Ms Kirsty Sword Gusmao,