History of the Fort

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Timor-Leste’s first people are thought to have arrived between 40,000BC to 20,000BC, with a second and third wave of migrants arriving between 3,000BC to 2,500BC. These second and third wave migrants were of Melanesian and Proto-Malay decent, however there is little knowledge or significant architectural history from this period.

It is believed that the first Portuguese reached the coast of Timor-Leste around 1515 and sought to capitalise on the regional trade in sandalwood. The Balibó Fort is dated to between 350-370 years old and is the second-oldest surviving fort in Timor-Leste.

The Balibó Fort was built to protect the port colony of Batugade; Balibó was considered the best location for the fort due to its commanding height, strategic position at a crossroads of travel paths and its location in the centre of a turbulent tribal area.

Significantly, the Balibó Fort shifted the border between Portuguese East Timor and Dutch West Timor due to its position and its role as a military stronghold.

The Fort has been a defence post during colonial occupation and late in the period of Portuguese control it was used as an administrative station for the Portuguese Government to suppress uprising in Balibó.  The house inside the fort is thought to have been built in the 1920s and provided accommodation for the senior colonial administrator of the region.

Conservation Management

The project architect, renowned Melbourne practice peckvonhartel, has identified and adhered to the following international standards for the conservation of the fort:

  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) convention concerning the protection of the world’s cultural and natural heritage
  • International Council on Monuments and Sites, Burra Charter for Places of Cultural Significance; and
  • Heritage Council of Victoria’s Conservation Management Plans: Managing Heritage Places.

peckvonhartel has taken guidance from the standards listed above while considering the history of the site, its cultural significance and future policies for the Balibó Fort in meeting world heritage standards.