Foreign Minister Bob Carr today announced a joint Australia-Malaysia cultural exchange program for young Australians and Malaysians to travel to each other's countries and develop a stronger understanding of other cultures and faiths.
Senator Carr said the exchange program will be supported jointly by the Australian and Malaysian Governments as part of a regional campaign to promote better cultural understanding.
Senator Carr was speaking in Sabah after talks with Malaysian Foreign Minister Dato' Sri Anifah Aman.
"Under the exchange program, six young leaders from the Australian Muslim community will travel to Malaysia to meet with national and community groups.
Senator Carr said six young Malay community leaders will also travel to Australia for a similar exchange in Australian values and national culture.
"This program is based on a successful model Australia has run with Indonesia and Thailand.
"It's important to bring communities together to encourage an overlap of cultures.
"Programs such as this showcase Australian values in our region and encourage our own community leaders to gain a greater understanding of our neighbours", Senator Carr said.
Senator Carr said talks with Foreign Minister Anifah had also covered Australian-Malaysian relations in education, defence and trade, including the Free Trade Agreement (MAFTA) signed between the two countries in May 2012.
Senator Carr and Foreign Minister Anifah also discussed the Malaysia-Australia Arrangement on Transfer and Resettlement.
"Malaysia remains an important partner in combating people smuggling.
"In particular, Australia values Malaysia's willingness to embrace distinctive and innovative solutions to counter people smuggling that are of regional as well as bilateral significance.
"Malaysia is well placed to take a leading role in further regional endeavours to combat people smuggling", Senator Carr said.
Other matters discussed included:
- implementation of Australia's Asian Century White Paper;
- Australia-Malaysia counter-terrorism cooperation; and
- the potential for joint development of resources and progress on a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea.
Examples of other Australian programs which encourage interfaith and intercultural understanding include:
- Philippines – the Strengthening Grassroots Interfaith Dialogue and Understanding (SGIDU) small grants program – $1.7m to encourage talks and classroom teaching promoting tolerance of religious, ethnic and political differences in Mindanao.
- Philippines – the PeaceTech program, $850,000 for classroom tools to reduce prejudice between around 38,000 young Filipino Muslims and Christians.
- Croatia – 'Children Together', a program to reintegrate school-age children from minority groups in Vukovar following conflict between Serb and Croatian communities.
- Israel – the Australian Embassy supported a performance by The Bridge Project, a musical ensemble made up of performers from Turkish Muslim, Australian Christian and Israeli Jewish heritage.
- Jordan – funding for local scholars to take part in in seminars at the Centre for Dialogue and Cooperation among Civilisations in Indonesia.
- Papua New Guinea – the Panguna Peace Building Initiative (PPBI) to promote peace and good governance in Panguna and Bougainville, through consultations and workshops with stakeholders in the peace process.
- Solomon Islands – the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), $500,000 to assist with the TRC's mandate of community awareness, public hearings; witness statements from victims and perpetrators; counselling; exhumations; and report writing.
- Indonesia – The Australia-Indonesia Institute's Youth Exchange Program and Muslim Exchange Program, providing opportunities for young leaders from both countries to experience the culture and way of life of the other.
- Indonesia – the Australia-Indonesia BRIDGE program, $3.6m to create cultural links between 90,000 Australian and Indonesian students and encourage a shared understanding of other cultures and faiths.
Senator Carr said he had also recently raised the importance of cultural exchange with political leaders in Jordan, Israel, Indonesia and Japan.
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