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In March, ACYPL sent a delegation of seven to Australia in conjunction with the Australian Political Exchange Council (APEC). Visiting Canberra, Melbourne, and Sydney, this delegation spanned a balance of elected officials, including a state legislator from Wisconsin and a city council member from Columbus, Ohio, and private sector employees. Among the group were three Democrats and four Republicans, leading to lively discussions on American government while uncovering the nature of Australian politics.
The program began in Washington, DC at the US Department of State, where delegates were briefed on the political history of the United States and Australia. Afterwards, the delegation enjoyed a lunch meeting at the Embassy of Australia, discussing the country’s electoral system and relationship with the US with Australian diplomats and political advisers. These opportunities foreshadowed the effects people-to-people interactions would have on the participants’ understanding of Australia and their fellow American delegates.
Starting in Canberra, the delegation hit the ground running, attending briefings with four Australian political parties and receiving a comprehensive overview of Australian elections at the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). This time spent in Canberra was crucial to the delegates’ analysis of national and local Australian politics and the meeting was a favorite as the information disseminated set the tone for the remainder of the exchange. The itinerary in Melbourne incorporated meetings with organizations relevant to the delegation’s interests: highlights were discussions with the cybersecurity firm Data 61, Philanthropy Australia, and the Clean Energy Council Australia. Ending in Sydney, the group rounded out an itinerary of national government and private sector gatherings with a foray into the regional government of New South Wales, visiting the NSW Parliament, observing question time in the NSW Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council, and networking with young political leaders at an event hosted by the US Consulate in Sydney.
Culturally, the delegation enjoyed a visit to the Healesville Sanctuary in Melbourne, observing an Australian Rules football match, and touring the Sydney Opera House. Within both formal meetings and cultural outings, this bipartisan delegation returned to the US with a renewed appreciation for the US-Australian relationship and a clearer understanding of their American colleagues across the aisle. As one delegate explained, “My horizons were broadened as I traveled with people from cities, states, and backgrounds with which I had no background or previous involvement…Hopefully we all challenged each other not just to listen to people from different parties, but also to listen to opposing views within the same party affiliation.” ACYPL looks forward to continuing this rich exchange of ideas and friendship.