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Kirsty Sword Gusmao awarded Queen's birthday honour for Timor-Leste work

Australian Associated Press - June 8, 2015

For Kirsty Sword Gusmao, being appointed an officer of the Order of Australia is not just a recognition of her life's work, but of another country.

The Australian-born former first lady of Timor-Leste is being recognised for her service to relations between the two countries in the education sector, as well as being an advocate for improved health and living conditions for the Timorese people.

It was a long journey from Melbourne to becoming a resistance activist and eventually first lady following her marriage to the former president Xanana Gusmao, from whom she separated in March.

"I see it not just as an acknowledgement of my work and advocacy of Timor-Leste, but also as recognition of Timor-Leste itself," she said.

"Obviously for an ordinary middle class Australian it was a tremendous privilege and an honour to have that opportunity to witness and participate in the birth of a nation and to make some small contributions to the wellbeing of the nation."

In her 30 years working and advocating for Timor-Leste, she has seen the nation develop from "ground zero" to a fully fledged statehood. But the dramatic pace of change tended to drown out the needs of women and children.

In 2001 Sword Gusmao founded and became chair of the Alola Foundation, which is aimed at improving women's lives through advocacy, schooling, health support and economic opportunities.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/08/kirsty-sword-gusmao-awarded-queens-birthday-honour-for-timor-leste-work