This site brings together the publications of Dr. Sara Niner about people & politics in Timor-Leste.

04 January, 2019

Baseline Study: 2013 Research Study—Young Gender Equitable Men?

Final Report CoverIn 2013 Dr Niner undertook a Baseline Study into gender perceptions and masculinity with young men in Timor-Leste
Research Study by Monash University staff and UNTL (National Uni Timor-Leste) staff
  • survey of 500 young men using GEM Scale in rural and urban TL informed by focus groups and qualitative interviews
  • how young East Timorese men think about the roles of men and women in contemporary Timorese society and what they expect in their intimate or spousal relationships.
  • Informants described significant changes to gender roles and relationships in the emerging nation and continuing pressure for further change.
  • More gender equitable principles are promoted by the local women’s movement and international agencies and have been introduced into the new nation’s government policies.
  • While broadly accepted publicly these new values are often superficially held and families and communities find it difficult to implement these new concepts at the household and community level. Many local people interviewed presented the new values as foreign to local culture and as a result of ‘globalisation’.
Key Findings of 2013 Survey
  1. new ideas about gender equality introduced nationally—most young men accepted general statements about gender equity;
  2. Given specific details: young men still expect power and control over women within their families;
  3. Declining gender equitable attitudes with age, education, environment; Young men’s perceptions of gender relations and gendered violence in Timor-Leste”
  4. The dominant form of masculinity that was expressed was tough, aggressive, virile and heterosexual.
  5. Great variation and confusion about level of physical abuse tolerated but generally acceptance of physical abuse toward women if they do no fulfil traditional roles;
  6. Persistent blaming of women for the violence perpetrated against them by men;
Recommendations: culturally appropriate programs which clearly define domestic and other violence against women and positively influence men’s attitudes to gender equality and intimate partner relations in schools and other arenas as a priority.
For more information please see full report.

Masculinity and links to gender inequality and violence in Timor-Leste & Indonesia (2014) (Monash Asia Institute Seminar Series jointly organized with the Anthropology Program, School of Social Sciences)

Internationally, it has been shown that there is a strong link between various gender related norms, including notions of masculinity in a society, and gendered violence. Understanding this is key to programs of prevention. A panel of academics and practitioners will explore cultural elements of gender and masculinity that contribute to violence. These ideas and concepts will be explored particularly in relation to the work of men in prevention programs such as the Asosiasaun Mane Kontra Violensia (AMKV) or Association for Men Against Violence in Timor and the Gerakan Laki-Laki Baru (LLB) or New Men’s Movement in Indonesia
Click here to listen to the audio of the Seminar or go to
2014 10 07 Masculinity SeminarPhoto:  Monash Asia Institute-Anthropology Public Seminar (Oct 2014) Right to Left: Visiting-Scholar Mario Araujo, Mira Fonseca, Dr. Sara Niner, Rachmad Hidayat, Sri Wiyanti Eddyono
Panel includes:
Marito de Araujo, Visiting Academic, Timor-Leste: Marito is a founding member of the CSO ‘Association for Men Against Violence in Timor-Leste’, and is a long-term social activist. He has worked for Oxfam CAA Australia as an advocacy officer and programme co-ordinator. He currently teaches at the Universidade da Paz (UNPAZ) in Timor and also works as a gender consultant to government and international and local organisations.
 Sri Wiyanti Eddyono (Iyik), PhD candidate, Monash University. Iyik’s research is on women’s empowerment in poor, urban communities in Indonesia. She is also coordinator of the Indonesia research team of the UNRISD project: “When and Why do States Respond to Women’s Claims: Understanding Gender-Egalitarian Policy Change in Asia, a comparative study on India, Indonesia, and China”.
Rachmad Hidayat, PhD candidate, Monash University. Rachmad’s current research focusses on Muslim masculinities in Australia. His Master thesis was titled “Islam, Masculinity and Domestic Violence in Java”. Rachmad is a member and volunteer of Gerakan Laki-Laki Baru (LLB), a national movement in Indonesia addressing masculinities and domestic violence.
Panel Convenor:
Dr. Sara Niner is an interdisciplinary researcher and lecturer in Anthropology at Monash. She has undertaken research with young men in Timor-Leste about their attitudes to gender roles, relationships and violence, which informed a gender-based violence prevention campaign. This seminar continues this research in the field of masculinity in the post-conflict environment of Timor-Leste.

SEMINAR “Masculinities in Indonesia and East Timor” (2017)

Hani Yulindrasari (The University of Melbourne)
Noor Huda Ismail (Monash University)
Benjamin Hegarty (The Australian National University)
Dr Sara Niner (Monash University)
Professor Ariel Heryanto (Monash University)  discusses masculinity with members of a new generation of scholars who are completing separate research projects on the topic: Hani Yulindrasari (The University of Melbourne), Noor Huda Ismail (Monash University), Benjamin Hegarty (The Australian National University), and Sara Niner (Monash University). Julian Millie (Monash University) will offer concluding comments.
More information on speakers HERE

Watch recording of Seminar HERE



On-line Articles

  • 2017 Women’s empowerment and microfinance:  key challenges, lessons and a way forward Development Policy Blog  View Article
  • 2017 ‘Women and power in Timor’s elections’ New Mandala  View Article
  • 2016 ‘‘What a piece of work is a man!: Xanana Gusmao at 70’ New Mandala  View Article
  • 2016 ‘Xanana Gusmao: of Paintballs and Power’ The Inside Story View Article
  • 2012 ‘East Timor: New President, same problems for women’  The Conversation View article
  • 2012 Jen Hughes and Sara Niner, ‘Review: Surviving and resisting in Timor-Leste’ Inside Indonesia View article
  • 2011 ‘Gender Dimension in Post-Conflict Timor-Leste’, Asian Currents (March) View article
  • 2009 ‘Timor-Leste – A king’s granddaughter helps re-weave a nation’, Craft Unbound  View Article
  • 2008 ‘Reinado a product of Timorese trauma’, Eureka, Vol 18, No 4 View article
  • 2008 ‘Major Alfredo Alves Reinado: Cycles of Torture, Pain and Violence in East Timor’, Z-Net View article
  • 2004 ‘Guerrilla to President: Xanana Gusmão’, Eureka Street, Melbourne View article
  • 2003 ‘Strong Cloth: The Textiles of East Timor’, Craft Culture, Melbourne
  • 2002 ‘Maun Bo’t: Profile of a President’, Meanjin, Melbourne View Meanjin Article


Sara Niner (ed.) (2016) Women and the politics of gender in post-conflict Timor-Leste,  Women in Asia Series’, London: Routledge Publishing View Publisher’s Book page
Sara Niner (2011) Xanana: Líder da luta pela independência de Timor-Leste,  Don Quixote Publishing: Lisbon View Portuguese Publishing details 
Sara Niner (2009) Xanana: Leader of the Struggle for Independent Timor-Leste, Australian Scholarly Publishing: Melbourne  View Book or Read Launch Speech or Read Review
Sara Niner (ed.) (2000) To Resist is to Win: the Autobiography of Xanana Gusmão with selected letters and speeches, Aurora/David Lovell Publishing: Melbourne See Book

Book Chapters

Sara Niner (in press) ‘Conflict and peace-building in East Timor’, Steven Ratuva (Ed), Global Handbook on Ethnicity, Springer-Nature and Palgrave-Macmillan.
Sara Niner (2018) ‘Mane feto completo malu: gender relations in contemporary Timor-Leste’, Andrew McWilliam and Michael Leach (Ed.s) The Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Timor-Leste, Oxford: Routledge.
Sara Niner (2016) ‘Living between Heaven and Earth: Understanding jender in Timor-Leste’, Women and the politics of gender in Post-Conflict Timor-Leste, Women in Asia Series, Oxford: Routledge.
Sara Niner (2016) ‘Establishing a Research Agenda for Gender Studies in Timor Leste’, Women and the politics of gender in Post-Conflict Timor-Leste, Women in Asia Series, Oxford: Routledge.
Sara Niner (2016), ’Effects and Affects: women in the post-conflict moment in TL—an application of Spike Peterson’s “Gendering Insecurities, Informalization and War Economies”’, The Palgrave Handbook on Gender and Development: Critical engagements in feminist theory and practice, Wendy Harcourt (Ed), Palgrave Publishing
Sara Niner (2013) ‘Bisoi—a veteran of Timor-Leste’s independence movement’, Women in Southeast Asian Nationalist Movements, Eds Sue Blackburn and Helen Ting, NUS Press: Singapore, pp. 226—249 See Book
Sara Niner (2012) ‘Between Earth and Heaven: The politics of gender’, The Politics of Timor-Leste: Democratic Consolidation after Intervention, Editors M. Leach and D. Kingsbury, Ithaca, NY: Cornell Southeast Asia Program, pp. 239—258 See Book
Sara Niner (2011) ‘Women in the post-conflict moment in Timor-Leste’, Security, development and nation-building in Timor-Leste: Cross-sectoral perspectives, Editors Vandra Harris and Andrew Goldsmith, Routledge Publishing, pp. 41—58 See Book
Sara Niner (2008) ‘Women’s handcrafts production in East Timor: change for the better?’’, Democratic Governance in Timor-Leste: Reconciling the Local and the National, edited by David Mearns, Charles Darwin University Press,  pp. 240—249 See Book
Sara Niner (2007) ‘Martyrs, Heroes and Warriors: The Leadership of Timor-Leste’, D Kingsbury and M Leach (eds) East Timor: Beyond Independence, Monash Asia Institute Press, pp. 113-130 2007 Martyrs Heroes Warriors
Sara Niner (2000) ‘A Long Journey of Resistance: The Origins and Struggle of CNRT’, Ed., Tanter, Selden and Shalom, Bitter Flowers, Sweet Flowers: East Timor, Indonesia and the World Community, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, USA, pp. 15-29

Refereed Academic Articles

Sara Niner and Hannah Loney (under review) ‘The Women’s Movement in Timor-Leste and Potential for Social Change’, Development and Change
Sara L. Niner (2017). Reflection on the special gender stream: 2017 Timor-Leste Studies Association Conference. Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 10(2) View Article
Wigglesworth, A., Niner, S., Arunachalam, D., Boavida dos Santos, A. and Tilman, M. (2015) ‘Attitudes and perception of young men towards gender equality and violence in Timor-Leste ‘, Journal of International Women’s Studies, 16: 2 View Article
Sara L. Niner, Renata Kokanovic, Denise Cuthbert and Violet Cho (2014) “‘Here nobody holds your heart’: metaphoric and embodied emotions of birth and displacement among Karen women in Australia”, Medical Anthropology Quarterly. View on-line publication 05 March 2014
Sara L. Niner, Denise Cuthbert and Yarina Ahmad (2014) “Good mothers, bad mothers: motherhood, modernity and politics in representations of child abuse in Malaysia’s English-language newspapers”, Feminist Media Studies 14(6). View online publication: 06 Dec 2013
Sara L. Niner, Denise Cuthbert and Yarina Ahmad (2013) ‘The “social tsunami”: media coverage of child abuse in Malaysia’s English-language newspapers in 2010’ Media, Culture and Society, 35(4): 433—451 Journal home page
Sara L. Niner, Renata Kokanovic and Denise Cuthbert (2013) ‘Displaced mothers: birth and resettlement—gratitude and complaint’, Medical Anthropology: Cross Cultural Studies in Health and Illness 32(6): 535-551. See Article
Sara Niner (2012) ‘Barlake: an exploration of marriage practices and issues of women’s status in Timor-Leste’, Local-Global: Identity, Security, Community, Globalism Research Centre, RMIT: Melbourne See Journal
Sara Niner (2011) ‘Hakat klot, Narrow steps: negotiating gender in post-conflict Timor-Leste’, International Feminist Journal of Politics, York University, Canada, Volume 13(3): 413—435 See Article
Sara Niner (2009) ‘Sacred Cloth and Development in Timor-Leste’ Asia-Pacific Social Science Review (APSSR) Volume 9(2): 1-17 See Article
Catherine Lang, Denny Meyer, Sarah Niner et al (2009) ‘The Impact of Gender and Pedagogical Factors on Female Pass Rates’, Communications of the Association for Information Systems: Volume 25, Article 28. See Article
Sara Niner, Jane Pirkis, Karolina Krysinska, Jo Robinson et al (2009) ‘Research priorities in suicide prevention: A qualitative study of stakeholders’ views’, Australian e-Journal for the Advancement of Mental Health, Volume 8 (1)
Jo Robinson, Jane Pirkis, Karolina Krysinska, Sara Niner et al (2008) ‘Research Priorities in Suicide Prevention in Australia’ Crisis: the Journal of Crisis Prevention and Suicide Prevention Volume 29(4)
Sara Niner (2005) ‘President Xanana Gusmão: A transforming leadership’, P Thomas and H Hill (eds), Development Bulletin No. 68: Cooperating with Timor-Leste, ANU, Canberra, pp. 39—41  See Article
Sara Niner (2000) ‘A Long Journey of Resistance: The Origins of the National Council of Timorese Resistance’, The Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, Vol 32(1-2):11—17 Cornell University, USA See Journal

 Research Reports

  • Sara Niner, Kathryn Cornwell and Cristina Benevides (2015) ‘Gender Analysis of Oxfam Savings and Loans Groups in Timor-Leste: Research Report’, Melbourne: Oxfam Download Report: MONASH Timor Leste Report Final
  • Dr Sara Niner, Dr Ann Wigglesworth, Mr. Abel Boavida dos Santos, Mr. Mateus Tilman, Associate Professor Dharmalingam Arunachalam. 2013. Perceptions of gender and masculinities of youth in Timor-Leste Baseline Study– Joint Communication Campaign for the Prevention of Gender Based Violence Timor-Leste     2013 PyD Final Report Young Men English  or 2013 PyD Tetun Relatoriu Esbosu
  • Jacqui True, Sara Niner, Swati Parashar and Nicola George. 2013. Women’s political participation in Asia-Pacific. Report for United Nations Department of Political Affairs.  New York: Social Science Research Council Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum. View Description of Report or download report or here CPPF_WomenInPolitics_03_True
  • Kokanovic, R., Niner, S., Cho, V. and Cuthbert, D. (2012) Pilot Study on perinatal depression (PD) in refugee communities. Research report beyond blue. Melbourne. 2012 06 beyondblue Refugee Mothers Report Web Edit
  • Niner, S. (2009) International Commencing Student Study Swinburne University
  • Niner, S. (2009) ‘Gender and Society in Timor Leste’, Science Application International Corporation (SAIC)
  • Palmer, L., Niner S., and Kent L. (2006) Proceedings of Exploring the Tensions of Nation Building in Timor-Leste Forum, SAGES Working Papers, University of Melbourne. Proceedings here 2007 Tensions Nation Building Proceedings

Encyclopedia Entries

2016 ‘Internet and Social Media Usage in Timor-Leste’, Entry for ‘Online around the World: A Geographic Encyclopaedia of the Internet, Social Media, and Mobile Apps’ ABC-CLIO Encyclopedias (with Emanuel Braz)

Dr Sara Niner

  • Dr. Sara Niner is an interdisciplinary researcher and lecturer in Anthropology with the School of Social Sciences at Monash University. Before becoming an academic she spent many years working with the East Timorese diaspora in Australia followed by many years working and researching in Timor-Leste.
  • She is an expert in the field of gender and international development with a particular interest in those issues in the post-conflict environment of Timor-Leste and is widely published in this field.  As a regional gender expert, Dr Niner has often worked and reported on gender issues in S. E. Asia for local and international development agencies. She is currently undertaking research through the Oxfam Monash Partnership  of Oxfam partnered Savings and Loans Schemes in Timor-Leste. Further work on the links between gender inequity, empowerment and the economy is also being developed with a network of researchers focussed on the Asia Pacific.
  • She recently convened a public seminar Crocodiles in the Timor Sea: development implications where her presentation reported on recent research which uncovered little know details about the culture of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs in their negotiations over the maritime resources in the Timor Sea.
  • As part of an ongoing program of research into the politics of gender in Timor-Leste she is  undertaking new research into Masculinities in Timor-Leste building on a 2013 study into young men in Timor-Leste and their attitudes to gender roles, relationships and violence which informed a gender-based violence prevention campaign.
  • A new book Women and the politics of gender in Post-Conflict Timor-Leste, Women in Asia Series, has just been published with Routledge in the UK  More info here and launched in London in December 2016
  • She is also the editor of To Resist is to Win: the Autobiography of Xanana Gusmão with selected letters and speeches (Aurora Books, Melbourne, 2000) and author of Xanana: Leader of the Struggle for Independent Timor-Leste (Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, 2009) which was translated into Portuguese as Xanana: Líder da luta pela independência de Timor-Leste (Don Quixote Publishing: Lisbon 2011). To commemorate Gusmao’s 70th birthday she also published ‘‘What a piece of work is a man!: Xanana Gusmao at 70’, and Xanana Gusmao: of paintballs and power.

Recent Blogs

  • 2018 Why microfinance as aid isn’t enough to empower women, The Conversation View article here
  • 2018 It’s time for women to lead in Timor-Leste. La Croix International  View article here