Patrons & Ambassadors
Inspiring and educating for BETTER
President Dr Josè Ramos-Horta
Nobel Laureate (1996), Prime Minister (2006-2007) and President (2007-2012) (re-elected in 2022) of Timor-Leste.
Before he was renowned as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dr. José Ramos-Horta was known internationally as a fiery advocate for the people of Timor-Leste (then known as East Timor) and at the same time, a highly skilled diplomat, negotiator, and peace maker.
A moderate in the emerging Timorese nationalist leadership, Jose Ramos-Horta was appointed Foreign Minister in the “Democratic Republic of East Timor” government proclaimed by the pro-independence parties in November 1975. When appointed minister, Jose Ramos-Horta was only 25 years old. He left East Timor three days before the Indonesian troops invaded to plead the Timorese case before the United Nations. Jose Ramos-Horta arrived in New York to address the UN Security Council and urge them to take action in the face of the Indonesian military onslaught which would result in over 200,000 East Timorese deaths between 1976 and 1981.
During the 24 years of the occupation of East Timor Jose Ramos-Horta was the international voice of the Timorese people. In exile from his country from 1975 to 1999, he was the Permanent Representative to the United Nations for the Timorese independence movement. The youngest UN diplomat in history and an international human rights figure, he is one of the three central heroes in the country’s struggle for independence.
In 1996, Dr Ramos-Horta was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work toward a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor.
In 1999 the United Nations sponsored a referendum, allowing the Timorese people to vote between independence, and remaining a part of Indonesia. The country voted overwhelmingly for independence.
But the story was not over. When the referendum results came in, pro-Indonesia militia who had been put in place across the countryside were unleashed, deploying a scorched earth policy which burned the country, and 85% of its buildings, to the ground.
Dr Ramos-Horta returned from exile in December 1999. He served as Senior Minister in the new government and Timor’s first Foreign Minister before stepping into the vacant Prime Minister post in 2006 and in May 2007 Dr Ramos-Horta was elected President of Timor-Leste.
In 2008 President Ramos-Horta survived an assassination attempt by members of the renegade military group.
On the President’s return to office, the country entered a new phase. In his years as Prime Minister and President, working with fellow Timorese hero and current Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao. Dr Ramos-Horta served as the international voice of the young government, lifting tens of thousands out of extreme poverty. His leadership and expertise have walked Timor-Leste toward a new era of peace, reconciliation and economic growth.
In 2014-2016, at the request of the UN Secretary General Dr Ramos-Horta chaired the UN High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations, a worldwide review of the UN Peacekeeping and Mediation efforts with the goal of making the UN “peace and security architecture” more efficient in preventing and revolving conflicts. His work and the resulting report and recommendation received international praise.
In 2022, in a free and fair democratic election, Dr Ramos-Horta was elected President for the second time.
Today, as one of the world’s true peace builders, President Ramos-Horta continues to undertake high level peacekeeping and peace building actions globally, while leading the young democracy he helped to build.
Eddie De Pina
“BETTER is about people coming together for the sake of others – it’s very special. Without BETTER another generation would be lost.”
Eddie De Pina is an integral member of BETTER. Eddie first crossed paths with Ornella in 2013 and partnered with her in 2018 as BETTER, after the organisations name was hatched-out during a car ride together ‘home’.
Eddie was born in East Timor. He fled his homeland with his family in 1975 when Indonesian troops invaded. Eddie was only 10 years old. Another 25 years would pass before he stepped back onto home soil.
Eddie arrived in Western Australia as a refugee and initially lived & volunteered at the Leeuwin Military Barracks in Fremantle and attended John XXII College in Claremont. This was an exceptionally difficult time for Eddie; displaced and mourning the death of his older brother who was murdered, his missing sister was presumed dead, and countless friends and extended family had fallen victim to the atrocities of the civil war.
Eddie acknowledged he was incredibly fortunate, and he valued the education he was receiving, yet he was in a constant state of worry and unable to focus completely on his studies. When the civil war ended in 1999, Eddie chose to follow his heart and return to East Timor with his people. When settled in Dili, Eddie wanted two things: to help rebuild their nation to live fulfilling lives once again, and to show respect to Australia for the education he had received. He acknowledged his education was a gift he could share.
Since his return, Eddie has been instrumental in building community programs and centres that aim to empower and support the Timorese. The Bakhita Centre, a community initiative established by Eddie, has impacted the lives of over 360,000 Timorese people.
When Eddie’s path crossed with Ornella’s, he was struck by such a young girl with “too many questions”. He thought she would grow tired after a daunting 4-hour drive on bad roads, that she’d be “scared” into silence. He was wrong. Ornella’s questions continued and Eddie found himself motivated by her keenness – it gave him “hope & humanity that someone so young wanted to help.” He gave her very sound advice, “first thing, you must study, go finish your education, look after yourself, stabilise yourself first, then you can help others.” Eddie saw Ornella’s potential to be a true role model for the power of education. Their partnership reflect all that is good in this world; it’s bloomed into a lifelong kinship that unifies and works together for the people.
As one of the most versatile members of the Nine Network’s news and current affairs team, Belinda Russell can be seen co-hosting Weekend Today and presenting the weather on Sydney’s flagship news bulletin, as well as fill in hosting for Today and Today Extra.
Belinda loves meeting and talking to people and turning their stories into great television. She has extensive experience presenting and producing news, current affairs and children’s programs, across Australia and in the UK.
Hailing from Queensland, Belinda completed a degree in Communications and Journalism at the University of Southern Queensland, before joining Network Ten in Brisbane in 1999. After producing segments for Ten’s long-running kids’ environmental show Totally Wild Belinda joined the Ten News team as a reporter. She presented news and weather bulletins, before being asked to host Totally Footy, a new network program aimed at young AFL fans.
Early in her career Belinda gained valuable experience working in the breaking news environment at Sky News in London as a Producer. Her on camera ability was soon recognised by Sky executives who gave her a reporting gig – making her one of few Aussie journalists to work on camera in British television.
In the UK she worked across a range of stories, and gained live location and studio experience, before specialising as an Entertainment Reporter. She was lucky enough to meet and interview some of the biggest names in show business, including Madonna, Tom Cruise, Kylie Minogue, Antonio Banderas, Elton John, Leonardo DiCaprio and Angelina Jolie.
In 2007, Belinda returned to Australia, and joined the Nine Network’s A Current Affair as a reporter, based in Sydney. She covered a broad range of stories, but was happiest talking to people who had overcome tough times in their lives, or who had inspirational experiences to share. Belinda is a proud mum of three daughters, she’s a baking enthusiast and has become known for her Friday Tik Tok videos that enliven the nine studios and bring joy to her social media followers.