Australian peacekeeping hero’s Timor-Leste heart health battle 19 September 2019

Peacekeeping hero Sir Peter Cosgrove has urged Australians to continue to get behind their fledgling neighbour Timor-Leste (East Timor), as he announced his plan to play a key role in a leading Australian NGO working to tackle Timor-Leste’s heart health crisis.

The retired general, who headed the InterFET peacekeeping mission that brought peace and stability to Timor-Leste 20 years ago, took up a new role as an ambassador for East Timor Hearts Fund this week, during celebrations of the anniversary of InterFET in Dili.

As an ambassador for East Timor Hearts Fund, Australia’s only medical organisation dedicated to heart health in Timor-Leste, Sir Peter will help spread the healthy heart message to young Timorese, governments and supporters.

“Timor-Leste has one of the world’s highest rates of preventable, treatable rheumatic heart disease, with one in 20 girls affected,” Sir Peter said.

“The equivalent of one child in every classroom with preventable and treatable heart disease – that is just not acceptable.

“This is not the future that my peacekeepers and I worked and fought for in 1999-2000, and it is not the future that our neighbours and good friends deserve.

“As an ambassador for East Timor Hearts Fund I look forward to playing a role at the frontline of the fight against rheumatic heart disease in Timor-Leste. It’s a battle I want to win.”

Sir Peter described Timor-Leste as “a cause close to my heart” and said playing a key role in the emerging nation’s transition to independence remained one of his proudest achievements.

“I feel there could be no greater privilege than being part of the birth of a new democratic nation and supporting the courageous people of Timor-Leste in their ambition to form a stable, sustainable, peaceful and prosperous homeland,” Sir Peter said.

By providing heart surgery in Australia and Timor-Leste for the most critical cases and research, preventative health and education projects, East Timor Hearts Fund was helping to support a healthy future for the Timorese.

“For me – and I hope for all Australians – the continued progress of the fledgling nation of Timor-Leste is a proud legacy,” Sir Peter said.

“I encourage anyone who shares my admiration for our neighbours in Timor-Leste to tangibly demonstrate this however they can, including by supporting the vital work of East Timor Hearts Fund.”

East Timor Hearts Fund CEO David Marlow welcomed Sir Peter’s important new role. “Rampant rheumatic heart disease is a tragic injustice for our friends in Timor-Leste. We look forward to having Sir Peter by our side as we work with the Timorese to tackle this crisis.”

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