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An open Letter to Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia

Photo: Julia Gillard with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

Canberra has a sister city with Beijing. If it also had one with Washington DC, Canberra could do more to help build constructive connections between the two major powers.

Canberra school and university students, in direct contact with counterparts in both China and the US, could also learn a lot about diverse perceptions of international events and how Australians might help find constructive solutions to diplomatic problems.


Dear Prime Minister,

I would like to thank and congratulate you and your government for producing the Australia in the Asian Century white paper.

I particularly welcome the proposal for direct sister/brother internet links between Australian and Asian schools, and have said so in 2 blogs I have written in the last week:-

Local-global connection-building to get through a global economic crisis
Local-global connection-building for futures that work


Now that you have announced this very tangible initiative, it has suddenly become so much easier to convey the value and need to use the internet from this part of the Antipodes to help build international relationships.

I note that the Australian opposition welcomes your strategy, but the Deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop says there is a need to “detail what Australia needs to do to reach these goals.” I hope that the suggestions in this open letter might be helpful in this direction.

I would like to now suggest a potentially productive question. The question is:

What if your connected schools were also nestled in well-connected villages?

This question has two dimensions to it, one international and the other very local.

I would like to address the international dimension first.

Firstly: A triadic sister city hub structure for Australian cities

What if each Australian city developed three types of international sister city relationships by connecting with:

  1. An Asian city To use the example of Canberra, where your government is based –   Canberra already has a sister relationship with Beijing.
  2. A United States city For Canberra, why not seek a sister city connection with Washington DC? Think of how this could situate Canberra to help, where appropriate, to facilitate capital- to-capital communication flows between the US and China.
  3. A developing Pacific area city – Canberra has one with Dili, East Timor.

Within each of these sister city connections, embed school-to-school connections along with, at least, city hall, business chamber and some media organization connections. Radio and television stations could then develop regular direct contact and other programs on sister areas.

Consider how this communications structure could add to what young people would be able to learn as they proceeded through from primary to secondary and tertiary educational institutions, continually in touch with counterparts in three such sister areas. Australia could soon become an amazingly well-informed, well-connected, even more lucky country.

These international connections could be developed from:

Secondly: Well-connected localities/“villages” that –

1.    Amplify local day-to-day, face-to-face connections using local social media
2.    Use such media also to create and film shared, locally-based but outward-looking narratives about aspirations and how these might be achieved.
Hazel Ashton has pointed to how these goals might be implemented in a sociology PhD:  Local Place and its Co-Construction in the Global Network Society –  Utilizing Film and Communication Technologies for Inclusive, Locally Grounded, Civic Cosmopolitan Projects, in a New ‘Network Locality

Thus a vision: well-connected villages in a well-connected, problem-solving world

Working in conjunction with each other, these local and international communications structures would enable local villages and cities to connect better both internally and then, also, internationally. Thus Australia could help pioneer a new model for creating a well-connected world.

This world could then be much better equipped than it is now to generate the concepts and collaborations it needs to flourish while better managing the growing economic, social, and ecological challenges it faces.

All of which would create a considerably more motivated – and effective – context than otherwise for the Asian and other contact-building and language-learning that the white paper seeks.

I realise a lot of work would be involved in setting up such structures, so I wonder if an academic research and training programme might be usefully set up to help guide the way?

I would be happy to get an exploratory report done on how such a project might be initiated and developed.

Very best wishes
Antipodean Village Blogger

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