Balibó Fort Hotel and Cultural and Heritage Museum

Balibó House Trust has restored one of Timor-Leste’s most significant heritage sites, the 18th century Portuguese fort at Balibó and on the same site has built visitor accommodation.

The restoration of the Balibó Fort has created income, employment and training opportunities for the people of Balibó and has helped drive economic activity into the western part of Timor-Leste. Funds generated by the project  supports the charitable work of the Trust at the Balibó Community Learning Centre, the Balibo Dental Clinic and Balibó Five Kindergarten.

The first stage of restoration works was completed in late 2013. As part of this heritage restoration the fort walls, ramparts and cannon were preserved, new fort gates made from solid timber were installed, and the former colonial administrator’s residence inside the fort was fully renovated in heritage Portuguese style.

On March 20th 2015, Hon Xanana Gusmao and the former Premier of Victoria Steve Bracks officially opened;

  • A cultural centre and museum celebrating the history, language and culture of Timor-Leste
  • Modern, high quality, heritage influenced visitor accommodation
  • A café and restaurant in the heritage restored Fort House with panoramic views from the mountains to the sea.

The Balibó House Trust has been pleased to welcome the support of the Government of Timor-Leste, which has included the fort restoration project in its National Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030.

The Trust is grateful for the many people and organisations who have made the fort restoration possible.  In particular we thank our major project partners the Harold Mitchell Foundation and Crown Limited, and the Bayu-Undan Joint Venture – our Founding Partner, Education & Heritage, for their generous support.

To assist delivery of this project, the Trust partnered with the Market Development Facility (MDF), a pro-poor market system development program that is fully funded by Australian Aid, with the Managing Contractor being Cardno Emerging Markets. The overall goal of MDF is to ‘sustainably increase employment and incomes for poor women and men in rural and urban areas’.

A full list of donors is available here.

If you would like to support the Balibó fort project click here

History of the Fort

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.

To book a room at the Hotel or for further information go to  www.baliboforthotel.com 

Gallery of images showing the Fort before restoration works commenced.