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Letter to Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Covid-19 and Australia’s development program

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Dear Senator Payne,

We first met in the early 2000s when I accompanied you to Timor-Leste as part of a UNICEF Australia Parliamentary Association monitoring visit. I recall we visited a school in Manatuto which had recently reopened after the devastating violence and destruction there. The community’s resilience, along with UNICEF and partners’ support, had made the children’s future brighter despite seemingly overwhelming odds.

Today, facing the onslaught of Covid-19, we are presented again with seemingly overwhelming odds. It is threatening the progress made by development programs such as Australia’s. Just today, my company – Tulodo – discussed with three client organisations, including a DFAT-funded program and multilateral partner, to revise plans and budgets with Covid-19 challenges in mind.

My concern is that we should try to maintain delivery of programs and services as much as is practical and safe. This will ensure momentum is not lost on alleviating poverty and maximising prosperity for our partner communities. We can meet expectations for delivery of the work and maintain the safety and wellbeing of our staff, partners and other stakeholders. 

We at Tulodo are reviewing which activities can be moved online, which will require more local resources and how activities can be conducted safely. Our clients work on child development, health, education, women and agriculture – major priorities for the Australian government.  Given the mix of our team and networks in various parts of Indonesia and Timor-Leste we have some resources to manage this but it’s not enough. 

I hope DFAT has confidence in its delivery partners and helps us to maintain this work during these difficult times. Reducing or suspending the development program would be a mistake. There are super smart people in our region with loads of experience who can help make this work. Our hope is that we can learn better ways of working that will continue to ensure good work is done on these important issues. 

I hope you and your staff are coping with this difficult transition, we know how frustrating it can be. 

Thanks again for your support for Australia’s development program and its delivery partners. I hope to see you again soon in the region.

Regards,

Nick Goodwin

Director of Tulodo

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