Women in agriculture in Timor Leste

by Sarah Burr

Women are incredibly important to agriculture all over the world. In Timor Leste, women in mountainous areas (where 70 per cent of the Timorese population lives) carry out most farm activities including taking care of animals and cultivation of rain-fed crops such as sweet potato, cassava and fruit. Timorese women increasingly took on farm work during conflict as men left towns and villages to fight. Post-conflict, women have continued this work due to men returning from war suffering physical and mental injury. This farm workload is on top of women’s other duties such as child-rearing, housework, caring for elders, and community responsibilities.

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A little noise from Dili

Recorded on the Cooking Circles pilot in 2014, the kids from Dili’s outer suburb Bedois do their weekly drumming-round-the-neighborhood Sunday practice. Have a listen!

Pics from our Canberra network


Delectable Bosnian jam sweets by Alisa – her first batch ever!


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5 Minutes with Jacqueline Evans

TT-JEvans-portraitThanks for sitting down to speak to Cooking Circles this month. I reached out to you because I related to your feel-good newsletters targeting women and their wellbeing. You run a business, Jacqueline Evans Skin Care that is built on some core principles of health and wellbeing. Can you tell me a bit about that?

Image courtesy of The Design Files

Absolute please Heidi. I am thrilled to be here. My background in nutrition and naturopathy led me in a round about way over many years to creating a line of natural skin care. I believe that skin care should be based on science, nature and common sense.

Healthy skin is an integral part of good health.  Our skin is a reflection of the overall health of our body. The skin is one of the main channels of elimination. If any of our other channels are overburdened, such as the digestive system, kidneys, lymphatic system or lungs, the skin must work harder to compensate, and in turn may show signs of this over working, such as redness, acne or other blemishes.   So you can see, why it’ so important to look at the whole body and not just what’s going on at the skin level.

Skin is the largest organ of the body and is semi-permeable membrane, meaning what we put onto our skin is absorbed directly into our bodies. The skin will absorb up to 60% of what is applied to it. Sending it full strength into the blood stream where it becomes material for building new body tissues or it becomes potent toxic waste.  So, here’s the thing, if we absorb what we put on our skin, and some ingredients are questionable about the way they may affect our hormones or cause irritation, it makes sense to me to choose plant based ingredients, which will work with your skin and not against it.

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What women are saying about Cooking Circles



I am irish Australian. That allows me to feel special on St Patrick’s Day as I sip my green beer. It also means I can claim a sense of humour and a love of emerald fields but there is something about descending from the irish that came to Australia.

Their humour, ingenuity, faith would have surely been needed in the harsh Australian climate and in the pseudo- british culture. And its those ingredients, that persistence that I think made a massive contribution to modern Australia. Without the irish there would be no Ned Kelly, no Eureka, no Catholic Schools, no great pubs and dare I say it – a limited pool of ranga’s (Australian redheads). Apart from the notable and what has become part of our national mythology, every irish family in Australia has its own stories of triumph and tragedy.

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Networks of women in Canberra

Running in the homes of different women in the Cooking Circles Canberra network, these dinners vary greatly from Taiwanese and Greek to more traditional roasts and cakes. Each dinner has involved a different group of women who network and connect, and every single one has been heart-warming.

Tryphena’s Cooking Circle: before and after from Heidi Zajac on Vimeo.

Congratulations Tamara Sloper-Harding OAM


4415847Australia’s relationship with Timor Leste is in the news a bit at the moment. I want to tell you about a group of people on Sydney’s Northern Beaches who are doing their utmost to repay some of the debt we Australians owe the Timorese for their protection of our troops from the Japanese during WW2. Over 40,000 Timorese were slaughtered as a result of taking care of our stranded Aussie soldiers. At the time Australia promised them protection and friendship – we have failed in these promises over and over again. In 1975 we sat back and watched as the Indonesians invaded. During the 25 years of occupation over 200,000 Timorese perished. It was not until General Cosgrove led INTERFET into Dili in September 99 that we moved in any way to help these people – our neighbours, less than one hour’s flight from Darwin.

Photo source: http://www.pittwaterfriendsofsoibada.org.au/

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From Ana Guterres’ kitchen: Cooking Timor-Leste’s food

Ana will be hosting a Wednesday Cooking Circle at the local Community Centre, Currie Crescent. She is cooking up a magical array of Timorese dishes that remind her of home.

Ana’s menu

  • Etu katupa/Etu kinur – Coconut rice
  • Ikan Saboko – Fish wrapped in banana leaves
  • Aimanas –Timorese fresh chilie
  • Ikan Saboko Etu Katupa/Etu kinur – Yellow rice

And for Dessert

  • Batar Kukus – fresh corn steamed with coconut cream

2083_1069644750711_2599_n Ana's ikan saboko IMG_2168ikan saboko cook

Five minutes with Bridging Peoples’ Deb Cummins


Founder of Bridging Peoples and all-round go-getter, Deborah Cummins chats candidly with Cooking Circles about Timorese women, her passion for Timor Leste and the story behind Bridging Peoples…

It’s hard to talk about ‘Timorese women’, because of course their experiences and world views vary so much depending on what class they come from, and depending on whether they consider themselves more country women or city women…

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