Libby Bleakley is the co-founder and project manager of the Sentru Formasaun Ba Juventude (Centre of Learning for Youth) in Timor-Leste.
Libby recently agreed to share her career story here. Read on to find out how a girl who didn’t like the Police came to build a career as a police officer – and where that career has taken her.
I am a Federal Police Officer currently working in Crime Prevention. I had spent 19 years as a NSW Police Officer working in general duties and then specializing in working in child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, victim support, youth issues, indigenous issues and crime prevention.
I then joined the Australian Federal Police and spent 6 years in the International Deployment Group – I was posted to the Northern Territoty for 7 months to live and work in a remote Indigenous Coommunity, then to Sudan to work as a peace keeper with the United Nations for 8 months and then to Timor-Leste for 1 year with the United Nations living in the jungle and a further 2 years on the AFP mission teaching in the Timorese Police Academy.
Is this what you expected to be doing when you were at school?
No – I didn’t even like Police! I had no real idea what I wanted at school.
What was your first job?
I studied a 2 year Child Care Certificate course at TAFE and taught in pre-schools and early childhood centres for 8 years.
Can you tell us about a significant turning point in your career/life?
I was a victim of a violent assault and was lucky to survive. I wanted to join the Police to make a difference in other victim’s lives and I successfully implemented and co-ordinated the first Victim Support Unit for the NSW Police Service.
Who do you admire? Who has inspired you?
Many people in my life and many people I have crossed paths with all over the world. People with strength of human spirit that survive no matter the adversity. People who genuinely love others and care for them no matter what walks of life they are from.
If there were no limitations, what would be in the future for you?
I would open thousands of community centres all over the world – especially in war torn and traumatised countries. I am currently building a youth and community centre in Timor-Leste . This project has been developed to establish a facility for the Timorese youth and community that will develop skills, character and leadership through educational workshops; crime prevention workshops; language courses and fitness training – to build strong social foundations and to prevent crime within the community.
Finally, what would you tell your younger self about work and careers?
Always have respect – but be able to push the boundaries in what you dream and believe in. Be creative and adventurous – surround yourself with positive like minded people and move on from the negative ones. Always have time to look after others on this planet – not matter how small your action may appear to you, it may be life changing to the recipient. Be honest and fair and open minded.
Life is what YOU make it, no matter what you are presented with in your life you have the choice to be a victim or to take control of your own destiny.
But most of all, remember – “There is no such thing as a bad day. There are only rainy days, sunny days, wet days, cold days but never a bad day” (as told to me by a wonderful old Indigenous Elder).
If you feel inspired by Libby’s story and would like to help her build the first youth and community centre, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to send you more information.
UPDATE FROM LIBBY – FEBRUARY 2017
• My 14 months leave from the AFP has come to an end and I return to work on 2 March and I am happy to say that I have achieved everything I set out to do and more during this year in Timor-Leste. I feel confident the Centre will continue to run well under the management and supervision of our staff, Dede and Atisis Da Costa.
• Dede and I spent several days at SOFPOPE and the Ministry of Justice registering our Centre as a Private Centre. We should receive our Certificate within the next 2 months.
H.E Xanana Gusmao and H.E Ilidio Ximenes with Manager Dede and Libby Bleakley
PLUS FITNESS GYM:
Our Plus Fitness gym was opened on 10 October and we now have 300 members with more than 200 members on a waiting list. We are happy to have several females now attending as well as many rival gang members (Kork, Kerasakti and PSHT), who are working happily together training and forming positive relationships.
Each member of the gym is required to donate 1 hour a week to work as volunteer security on the front gate. All members are responsible for cleaning the gym and gardens at the end of the day. At this stage cleaning is going well but security needs more work, although it has improved with members taking initiative to encourage volunteers.
Our Manager for our Sewing Centre, Silvia has been training Tina and Domingas for the past 4 months and we now have a new member from our English class joining them 2 days a week – they are making DFG kits, gym bags and towels. We do not sell our DFG Kits but we do sell gym items – 50% of money made goes to the individual who made it and 50% to the Centre for ongoing running costs.
I submitted a funding proposal to the Department of Foreign Affairs (Australian Embassy) in relation to funding for our new project on “sustainable kitchen gardens”. Our Manager Dede and I met with Johannah Leay in January, who is looking into funding us $15,000 (yet to be confirmed) to commence the program.
We shall employ the 3 women in our sewing Centre to produce the heavy felt bags – make the organic coffee ground compost on site and grow vegetable seedlings to fill the bags prior to selling them.
We are in the process of extending our front fence of the property giving us an extra 3 metres of land to set up our composting bins.
This past month we were fortunate to have Tammy Chu and Anna Barletta from the Rotary Club of Nth Sydney and the World Computer Exchange (WCE) attend our Centre. The women have been working for the past 12 months on raising funds and putting together 12 laptop computers incorporating English and maths educational modules along with “Jolly Phonics”, used in our English curriculum. They identified our Centre as an ideal recipient that WCE can add significant value to.
WCE is a 15-year global education non-profit organization whose aim is to connect youths in under-privileged communities to the skills, opportunities and understanding of computers that have various education modules, including English and math.
Tammy and Anna worked hard for the week they were in our Centre and we have now successfully started our computer English courses. We will have 3 x 10 week semesters in a 12 month period – Basic English 1,2 and 3. We have a total of 120 students in our English classes that commenced on 6 February, 2017.
Tammy and Anna from WCE (Rotary Nth Sydney)our teachers and Manager
We have continued working with Simon Krieg from the “Centre of Human Development”, who has kindly donated the TESOL courses to us as well as assisting us with the English curriculum and Jolly Phonics modules.
Dede and I attended INDMO this week, which is a National Institute for Labour Force Development – it is the national regulator body who regulates the development of national qualification or national certificates and accreditations. We are seeking to have our English course accredited this year.
We interviewed several applicants for the head English teacher position and decided to employ Gido Feliz for the 24 hrs a week teaching students and supervising our 5 volunteer teachers. We are very happy with his professionalism and teaching skills.
AFTERNOON TEA WITH XANANA AND 7 MINISTERS:
H.E Xanana Gusmao has attended our Centre a few times in the last 2 months. He brought his 3 son’s from Australia to train at our Plus Fitness gym and visited on other occasions. He is so impressed by our members and the fact that rival gangs are making peace and friendships at our facility that he asked us to run an afternoon tea for our members which he assisted in catering for.
Libby Bleakley and Dede Da Costa greet H.E Xanana Gusmao
On Friday afternoon 10 February, we had 250 members attend our afternoon tea catered for by Mana Nina catering. I conducted a fitness and bodybuilding/weight lifting seminar.
The following Ministers were also in attendance –
Minister of Social Solidarity – H.E Isabel Amaral Guterres
Minister of Tourism – H.E Francisco Calbuadi Lay
Minister of Defence – H.E Sirilio Cristavao
Minister of interior – H.E Longinos Monteiro
Secretary State SOFPOPE – H.E Ilidio Ximenes
Vice Minister Administration and Statal – H.E Tomas Cabral
National TV and Educational TV (National) also came to film the event – airing it on both channels as news headlines.
H.E Xanana Gusmao and H.E Ilidio Ximenes spoke at length to Dede and I in relation to us building 2 more Centres in Timor-Leste as ours is so successful.
MEDIA – Timor Learning Centre FB page
In January we were so fortunate to have a film production company from New York attend our Centre. 3 wonderful film producers were touring the world making humanitarian films about “the gift of giving” and chose our Centre to make a promotional film to assist us in raising funds. His Excellencies Xanana Gusmao and Ilidio Ximenes were also in attendance. The film will be in virtual reality and people all over the world can view it on their smart phones when they download the free apt. This will be available sometime later this year.
FINANCES – The WCE women, Tammy and Anna raised enough funds to not only install our 12 laptops and systems but to also pay for a permanent teacher for our English class for 1 year, with extra funds for stationery etc.
Although we have now paid our lease until January 2018, we still require more funds for the ongoing running costs each year (approx. $30,000 AUD)
We are currently in the process of designing our small traditional house that shall be our library room (Dede our Centre Manager is also an architect). We shall then source some quotes and concentrate on fundraising early next year.
It is evident that we have the total support of H.E Xanana Gusmao, H.E Ilidio Ximenes and many other Government Ministers that support our Centre. They have been impressed that this was created by 2 off duty AFP women with the help of Rotary, family, friends and other companies and groups. They have stated that it is definitely the first of its kind in Timor-leste and has already proved to be a success – changing communities and decreasing violence.
I am proud to say that in the next 2 years we should see 2 more Centres emerge within this Nation and I would like to take the opportunity to say a huge thank you to all of those people who have made our dream for Timor-Leste come true. Please don’t forget us as we continue our quest to support the beautiful communities in this country.
Although I return to the AFP to continue my work on 1 March, 2017 my intention is to continue to travel to Timor-Leste and work at our Centre for a month every few months. I liaise most days with our Centre Manager and receive weekly reports from him, allowing me to be informed of our Centre activities.
I have been personally invited by H.E Xanana Gusmao to assist him in showing our virtual reality film in Timor Plaza on 20 May and shall return around this time.
Rotary Club of Blackheath
District 9685 Australia
Sentru Formasaun Ba Juventude no Comunidade
Centre of Learning for Youth & Community
RAWCS Project: 33-2014-15