There is a growing interest amongst occupational therapists and occupational therapy students regarding working or volunteering in developing countries. In Australia we live in a region together with vastly populated countries of Asia with old cultures, very different to our hybrid Australian society. However, there is not a lot of information relevant to how occupational therapists could work in other cultures within our region. In the field of disability there are large data-sets reporting prevalence and incidence of disability, however, as the definition of disability varies considerably from country to country, this information has broad application only. Timor Leste is a small developing country with a recent history of occupation and violence, to the north of Australia. I visited and worked as an occupational therapist in a number of projects in Timor Leste over many years and I wanted to more deeply understand the experiences of people with disabilities. I wondered what the barriers to participation were, and what factors helped a person with disabilities live a satisfying life in the country of Timor Leste. I wanted to understand how the complex cultural context of Timor Leste influenced those with disabilities and how people with disabilities managed in times of civil unrest.I wanted to know ‘what is the lived experience of physical disability in Timor Leste’.
Submitted in the fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, University of the Sunshine Coast, 2016.