Dr Noel Bayley AM
I first went to Timor-Leste in 2000, the year after independence. For some time, I’d been interested in doing some pro bono work in the developing world as, like many middle-class Australians, I felt absurdly privileged in comparison to most of the world’s citizens. It seemed to me that the least I could do was to try in some small measure to share my good fortune.
Initially I was involved with a small clinic in the hills above Gleno, southwest of Dili. My principal area of professional expertise is the assessment and treatment of heart disease and it became apparent to me that there was a large burden of untreated cardiac disease in Timor-Leste, a great deal of it due to rheumatic fever. Seeing a need, I set about diagnosing and arranging surgery for young adults with life-threatening conditions that were readily treatable in Australia.
In the last decade, I have made more than 30 trips to Timor-Leste and have had the privilege of seeing many hundreds of patients. I experience real joy every time we are able to arrange surgery through the generosity of donors, colleagues and hospitals in Australia.
I strongly feel that as Australians we have a real responsibility to help our neighbours in Timor-Leste. Quite apart from our geographic proximity, I believe there is a debt to be paid for the Timorese involvement during the World War II. In many ways, the work I do in Timor parallels my Australian professional life, but I see the opportunity to use my skills in an unpaid capacity as one of the great joys and privileges of my life.