Study tour Down Under

Normal, Weekender

SHEILA LASIBORI recounts a recent visit to Melbourne, Australia for a journalism program

THE day I arrived in Melbourne, Australia in late September I was welcomed by a top temperature of nine degrees.
I thought of nothing but to return home to the humid, sunny PNG I call home.
But this was Australia, and for the next five weeks I was going to be here with colleagues from Indonesia, East Timor, Palau, Solomon Islands, Fiji, and of course Papua New Guinea.
This group, although they came from different backgrounds, one common factor was that they were all journalists and took on the same responsibilities and faced the same challenges.
The group was in Melbourne under the “Reporting International Trade and Economic Affairs’ program.
The Asia Pacific Journalism Centre (APJC) in Melbourne coordinates the program, which is in its third year, and is supported by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) under its Leadership Awards Fellowships scheme.
APJC, under the leadership of Dr John Wallace and project coordinator Alexandra Kennedy, is a not-for-profit organisation that runs programs for journalists in developing countries and cultural awareness programs for Australian journalists.
The five-week program which started in Melbourne on Sept 28, took the 10 journalists to Canberra and Sydney and then brought them back to Melbourne – the multicultural city and home of this week’s famous Melbourne Cup.
The program officially ended on Oct 30.
Participating journalists were Indonesians Azis Tunny, who works with Jakarta Post; Frans Obon, who is with Flores Pos; John Pakage who hails from West Papua and works with Suara Perempuane Weekly; Hermina Pello, Pos Kupang Daily in West Timor; East Timorese Noemio Falcao, who is with Diario Nacional Timor-Leste; Fiji’s Caroline Delaivoni from the Fiji Sun; Firmin Merian from Palau’s Island Times; Priestly Habru from Solomon Island’s Island Sun; and PNG’s Glenda Popot from FM100 and the writer from The National newspaper.
The Indonesian and East Timorese were Bahasa speakers and they had translators, which proved to be very useful.
I wondered from time to time if they fully understood all the information that was being communicated in the world’s official language for business – English – but thanks to the patience and commitment of the translators – mostly Indonesian students – we were able to understand each other.
According to APJC director Dr Wallace, the program this year aimed to improve the ability of participants to understand and report on international trade and other economic matters, and thereby contribute more effectively to economic development in their countries and the region.
The five-week intense program opened windows and provided new insights into what is economic news and how we get to such stories and how they relate to our societies.
The challenge for the group is to be able to tell the story behind the story. To be able to ask questions on almost everything and anything that happens and be curious.
On personal development, confidence and techniques for good communication, among others, were assets which the participants said they would work on especially in dealing with their superiors, colleagues and contacts alike.
The program took the 10 participants to Australia’s capital city Canberra, then to Sydney and finally back to Melbourne. They also visited the historic Sovereign Hill gold mine in the city of Ballarat, about an hour’s drive east of Melbourne, which was the site of the Eureka rebellion – one of the watershed events in Australian political history, which is regarded as the birth of Australian democracy.
The participants returned home at last weekend.

* Sheila Lasibori is The National’s Business Reporter