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In October, ACYPL sent a delegation of seven Americans to Australia on an eleven-day program where they were hosted by the Australian Political Exchange Council, ACYPL’s in-country partner of over 35 years. Hailing from Florida, Michigan, California, Idaho, Virginia, South Carolina, and Washington, DC, this delegation of four democrats and three republicans included members of the Michigan and South Carolina Legislatures, an elected Trustee to the Compton Community College District, Chief of Staff to the Boise City Council, and professionals from the private and academic sectors.
The delegation first arrived in Brisbane following briefings with the State Department and the Australian Embassy in Washington, DC. There, delegates learned about state governance by observing question time in the Parliament House, being briefed on the Queensland Parliamentary System, enjoying lunch with the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Curtis Pitt, and meeting with the Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland. They were introduced to some of the most pressing challenges in Brisbane thanks to meetings with the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning, and the Queensland Corrective Services. Cultural activities in Brisbane included an Aboriginal Cultural tour and a tour of the Gold Coast, where delegates learned about Australia’s history and enjoyed its culture and natural beauty.
Once in Canberra, delegates met with representatives from the Australian Electoral Commission and discussed the electoral structure and process, learning about everything from how district lines are drawn to the nature of compulsory voting. This meeting was a favorite among the delegation as it provided the infrastructure necessary to understand elections at the national and local level. Equally memorable was a meeting with security experts at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, which informed delegates of Australia’s strategic coalitions and defense policy. Another highlight of the program included a visit to the Australian Parliament, where delegates observed question time in the Senate and House Chambers and met with the President of the Senate, as well as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
While in regional Victoria, the delegation traveled to Bendigo and Maldon. There, delegates enjoyed cultural activities including the Poppet Project performance, a visit to Three Bridges Thoroughbreds Farm and a community BBQ in Maldon. Meetings in regional Victoria focused on state election campaign activities, local agriculture and energy issues, and included a working lunch with local officials from Bendigo. The program concluded in Melbourne, where delegates especially enjoyed meetings with the Metro Tunnel Project, the Master Builders Association, and Energy Networks Australia.
In reflecting on their experience, participants reported that they returned home with a strong understanding of Australia’s politics and its relationship with the US. One delegate summarized his experience by noting that the program included a, “Fantastic blend of meetings with political leaders and party officials, across the national, state, and local levels — and across all major political parties. Exceptionally well done.”