Cultural exchange programmes allow people of all ages to spend time in another country, and another culture, learning about the people in that country, and their ways, their language, their laws, potentially their religion, and certainly their understanding. By experiencing those other cultures people on such exchange programmes return with a different opinion of the people they have been living with for some weeks or months.
Programmes on offer in Australia are limited in a number of ways. Various organisations report that they are only allowed to accept requests for placements of overseas people on a basis of how many we are offering to send to the other country. For some, the cost of going overseas, and staying there for more than just a holiday, can be prohibitive. Families willing to accept people into their homes as part of the exchange programme are not allowed to receive financial contributions from those whom they are hosting, even though there are additional costs of at least food, water, and electricity, so there is a disincentive for many families to host. In addition, though there is nearly always another person dependent on the family for basic services, Centrelink is not able to add that person for family benefits.
Some years ago, someone – if anyone knows who, where and when I’d appreciate being able to give appropriate credit – said “if the governments of the world spent half of their defence budgets on cultural exchange programmes there would be no wars.” Wars arise principally because of a lack of understanding of, and respect for, people of other cultures. If we engage in significant cultural exchange programmes then we will reduce the likelihood of being involved in any war. We will not need walls to be built to keep people out of a country; we will not need to constantly add to border security; and we stand to save billions of dollars currently spent on funding for “defence”. That’s money which could be used for other issues, such as education, health and economic stimuli.
● I will push for State government funding to assist people wishing to participate in cultural exchange programmes but being unable to do so because of a lack of funding; and
● with the co-operation of the State government I will push for a small percentage of Federally allocated funding for “defence” to be spent supporting families who host cultural exchange programme participants, and for a lifting of the ban of such families receiving payments to help offset the additional costs.
Authorised by Steven Secker, 4 Dower Court, Armadale.