Indonesia Expat
Charities Education

Meet Mike O?Leary

Mike (left) at a ROLE foundation event
Mike (left) at a ROLE foundation event

Founder and CEO of ROLE Bali, a non-profit humanitarian organization whose aim is to improve the education, well-being and self reliance of people living in underprivileged circumstances, whilst ensuring environmental resilience and sustainability.

Where were you born and raised?

I went to school in Queensland. I left school at sixteen and worked for the National Bank before going back to the turf farm business in which I was brought up. When I was 17, I joined the Australian Army for three years. I was a forward scout in the infantry, although I did not engage in active combat. I spent seventy percent of my time in the Australian bush country and a few months of ground defence at Butterworth, Malaysia. I returned to farming and shortly thereafter sold the farm. I nearly went bankrupt developing fifteen townhouses due to the builder going broke. Eventually I met my Japanese wife and we started a jewellery business in Bali in 2005. We sold to Japan, USA and Australia.

When did you come here to Bali?

My first visit to Bali was in 1980 and I came every six months after that. When I started doing business here in 1985 I came every month for a week. I started living here full time in 2005. I moved from Kuta beach to Nusa Dua in 2007 and that is when ROLE started.

How did ROLE evolve?

I saw waste everywhere in Indonesia, even on islands with no inhabitants. After being badly ripped off in the business world, I decided to start a non-profit organization to improve conditions in areas of the greatest need. The encroaching development and its effect on nature and its inhabitants deeply affected me. When we looked at the Waste Management Systems in Indonesia and Bali in particular, we saw a huge need for assistance. All the lower government services which we take for granted in the West are not being properly planned, developed and managed here. As a result, those most in need and most dependent on their natural surroundings are the ones most adversely affected. Skills in this area are sorely needed. That is what inspired our Environmental Ambassadors and our Eco Kids Programs, as well as our off-campus programs to educate people on the environment, a healthy diet and good exercise. We also educate Balinese men to become advisors and form councils on waste management.

What is Bali Wise?

When you go from the beach up the polluted rivers you come to the community. The community needs jobs, eco-friendly sustainable jobs. Most of the poorer areas send their boys to school and spend all their income on the boys. So Bali Wise was created. Bali Wise has two programs: Women’s Skills Education at the Bali Wise Campus and Women’s Business Development Program at the Island Sustainability Centre.

How many programs does ROLE implement currently?

We have five programs, fifteen sub-programs and five projects currently running. These include the aforementioned programs such as our permaculture farm and beach cleaners. Despite high levels of regional and international investment in Bali’s tourism sector, many people do not benefit from the current rapid investment, but are negatively impacted by loss of arable land, environmental degradation and development-driven inflation on prices of basic everyday necessities. Overfishing has contributed to job losses in this sector. The poor and unskilled are the most impacted. Illiterate people lacking skills are increasingly unemployed, underemployed and underpaid. Women are the most affected, with unskilled women receiving fifty to seventy percent less than the official Bali minimum salary. Also, there is strong cultural and traditional prejudice of the role of women in the workplace. Most women here have no rights to family assets. If men remarry, the first wife is many times left with no income or assets and no legal recourse, even if they had the money to hire a lawyer. This affects their children which creates another generation living in poverty without opportunities.

Mike O’Leary, second from the left

What is your vision for Bali in the future?

My hope is to bring Bali up-to-date with the developed world in regards to essential services, such as waste management and proper drainage. Bali is being over-developed while the basic services are not being put in place. I hope to see the coastal areas revitalized and through sustainability, education and environmental assistance programs a cleaner, greener Bali is possible. We must all focus on our own power to make the necessary changes in which to ensure a vibrant sustainable future for the next generations. While the focus is on profit, the basic infrastructure is falling apart because the necessary services are not implemented. This inevitably will lead to a decline in tourism and manufacturing. To sustain the well-being of the Balinese and a healthy economy, these issues of sustainability must be put in place now through education and government support. Laws to do so should be properly enforced and the public educated about how a clean green future is viable. I hope to see Bali and Indonesia become more educated and aware, able to promote gender equality and empower women to educate and care for the next generation by having the rights currently only allocated to men.

How can people get involved and help ROLE Bali?

We welcome all contributions. We also offer a comprehensive, tiered corporate donation program which provides a transparent approach with the flexibility to tailor your giving to be beneficial to your business. We work with our donors in a very holistic fashion, creating methods to integrate businesses or people with the appropriate programs for their interests.

As a one hundred percent non-profit NGO, ROLE Bali is relying on everyone’s generosity. Volunteers provide their time and others choose to raise funds for us. You may decide to donate any amount which suits your budget. We thank you kindly for your help and we ensure you will see wonderful results of your donation through our programs.

For more information on ROLE Bali, visit:

Or phone: (0361) 8078805 or (+62) 933113229 or call Mike (+62) 081933113229

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