Five Agriculture Victoria staff have returned from Timor-Leste, where they gained valuable experience in managing and preparing for emergency animal diseases as part of the Victorian Government’s animal health partnership with the neighbouring country.

This is the second year of a five-year, $3.5 million program funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) for Agriculture Victoria to share biosecurity expertise and training opportunities with scientists, technicians, and farmers in Timor-Leste.

Agriculture Victoria Research Leader Professor Grant Rawlin said in each visit, a new group of staff will gain field experience with diseases that are not present in Australia.

‘Through this partnership we’re able to learn a lot from Timor-Leste about diseases that are not present in Victoria, and gain real, on-the-ground experience, ’ Professor Rawlin said.

This visit was the first of a new series of exchanges which will see 3 rotating groups of Animal Health Officers travel to Timor-Leste twice per year.

During the 3 week visit in March, the five Agriculture Victoria staff participated with Timor-Leste staff in hands-on training, joined a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) simulation exercise, and worked with communities on buffalo milking and minimising risks of brucellosis.

This builds on significant work since the 2019 outbreak of African Swine Fever in Timor-Leste, where Agriculture Victoria veterinary team members supported the response and formed ongoing partnerships.

Since then, the partnership has deepened, with the Agriculture Victoria research team continuing to train local veterinarians to use diagnostic tools, including a real-time method for detecting different microbial agents in animal samples, and a portable test for pathogenic viruses.

Suzanne Wilson-Uilelea, Chargé d’affaires at the Australian Embassy, Timor-Leste said ‘Australia is proud to partner with Timor-Leste to improve biosecurity and animal health.’

‘This program is helping smallholder farmers to protect their valuable livestock assets and improve their livelihoods and food security.’

These skills will support Timor-Leste’s animal health and biosecurity initiatives, ensuring the nation can respond to potential disease outbreaks. The program also strengthens biosecurity across the region, helping to safeguard Australia from exotic animal diseases.