Our History

The Diplomacy Training Program’s establishment at the Faculty of Law at the University of New South Wales resulted from a chance encounter in Geneva. In 1988, after completing a term as Dean, Professor Garth Nettheim spent a couple of weeks in Geneva observing the operations of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP).   

Gudmundur Alfredsson, a member of the UN’s Centre for Human Rights, invited some people to drinks at his apartment. There Garth met José Ramos-Horta for the first time.

In May 1989, José met Garth in Sydney and floated his brainchild for what became the DTP.

He shared that over his long years representing the East Timorese struggle at the United Nations and elsewhere, he had had to learn from the ground up what the international system was all about, how it functioned, and how to use it effectively to advance the interests of his people. He was also surprised that relatively few people from the Asia-Pacific region used the system as well as they might if they had had some background training. So he conceived the idea of a human rights training program, particularly for non-governmental organisations in the region.

“We gathered a few kindred spirits, and when we got a grant from the Evatt Foundation, we were able to appoint a co-ordinator. We then set it up as an independent NGO affiliated with the University. We ran our first 4-week annual training at UNSW from 8 January to 2 February 1990. While we were running that program, Daryl Pearce, then Director of the Institute for Aboriginal Development asked whether we could provide a training in Alice Springs for Indigenous leaders from around Australia. This course ran between 28 May and 2 June 1990.”

We could not have foreseen in 1990 that East Timor would now be an independent nation, with José Ramos-Horta its President. Effective human rights advocacy was critical to that development.

The work of the DTP continues to be important in helping others to maintain pressure on governments and on the international system to take human rights seriously.


T31 IM DOU 37
HE José Ramos-Horta
President, Timor-Leste & Nobel Peace Laureate
Emeritus Professor Garth Nettheim AO