Kirsty Sword Gusmão, Former First Lady of Timor-Leste and Founder of Alola Foundation was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1966. She grew up in Melbourne and Bendigo and attended Melbourne University where she completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours), majoring in Indonesian and Italian, and a Diploma of Education.
In 1991, after working as an Administrative Secretary with the Overseas Service Bureau (Australian Volunteers International), she joined the Refugee Studies Program at Oxford University as Assistant to the Development Coordinator. During 1991, she travelled to East Timor as the Researcher/Interpreter the Yorkshire Television documentary film (In Cold Blood: The massacre of East Timor) on political and social developments in the territory.
From 1992 to 1996, she lived and worked as a teacher and human rights campaigner in Jakarta, Indonesia. It was during these years that her work for the East Timorese independence cause intensified and brought her into contact with the independence leader, Xanana Gusmão, who was serving a 20-year sentence in a Jakarta jail and whom she married in July 2000.
She has lived in East Timor since October 1999 and is the founder and chairwoman of the Alola Foundation which she established in 2001 to address the needs of East Timorese women and their families through advocacy, schooling, health support and economic opportunities.
Kirsty was appointed by the President Dr. Jose Ramos Horta as Goodwill Ambassador for Education in October 2007. This appointment was in recognition of Kirsty's tireless efforts to date and to formalize future endeavours in addressing the educational priorities of Timor-Leste.
On 14 May 2014, Sword Gusmão was admitted to the degree of Doctor of the University (honoris causa) by Victoria University for her community service in championing the importance of education and improving the lives of women and children in Timor-Leste
In June 2015, Sword Gusmão was appointed an officer of the Order of Australia (AO) "For distinguished service to Australia-Timor-Leste relations through the development of mutual cooperation and understanding, particularly in the education sector, and as an advocate for improved health and living conditions for the Timorese people.
Kirsty has three sons, Alexandre, Kay Olok and Daniel.