How well do we really know our neighbours?

Friday, 5 December 2003

The people of Australia - not just government and business leaders - can be actively involved in strengthening relations with our Asian neighbours, which could lead to improvements in our economy, environment and security, according to a group of Australian community leaders.

The Inaugural Don Dunstan Fellows, comprising key people from a range of community organisations, say Australians do not know their Asian neighbours as well as they might. By making efforts to bridge the gap between Australia and Asia, our regional neighbourhood will improve as a result, they say.

The Dunstan Fellows will hold their first ever Round Table and a Public Forum this Monday, December 8 to discuss the benefits of improving relations with Asia and what Australians and community organisations can do about it.

The Dunstan Fellows

  • Sharan Burrow, President of the Australian Council of Social Service
  • Julian Disney, former President of the Australian Council of Social Service
  • Don Henry, Executive Director of the Australian Conservation Foundation
  • Louise Sylvan, former Chief Executive of the Australian Consumers Association

Earlier this year, the Fellows visited Indonesia and Malaysia for discussions with leaders of counterpart organisations and other prominent experts about ways of strengthening understanding and interaction.

"The visits were planned before the recent increases in tension between Australia and a number of other countries, especially those with large Muslim populations. But those developments have made it even more important to develop broader and stronger relationships based on direct community interaction," Sharan Burrow says.

Public Forum

The Fellows and leaders of the environmental and consumer movements in Indonesia will speak at a Public Forum, Getting to Know our Neighbours

The Public Forum will be held at 6pm Monday, December 8 at the Stamford Plaza Hotel and will be chaired by Peter Mares, former presenter of the ABC's Asia Pacific program. The cost is $10 or free to holders of concession cards.

Round Table

The four Dunstan Fellows will be joined by about 25 South Australian community leaders at the Round Table on Monday afternoon, and the visitors from Indonesia. Participants come from a wide range of environmental, welfare, union, consumer, education and religious groups.

"Relations between neighbouring countries and peoples are too important to be left largely to governments and business leaders. Close ongoing interaction between leaders of key community organisations also has a very important role to play in strengthening mutual understanding and cooperation and reducing unnecessary tensions," Julian Disney says.

The Dunstan Fellows and Indonesian visitors will be available for interviews by appointment on the Monday. Media representatives are also very welcome to attend the Public Forum.


Contact Details

George Lewkowicz
Business: +61 8 8313 6247