The Australian Papuan Cultural Exchange Program (APCEP) has now hosted five groups of young Papuans in Perth, Western Australia. The aim of the program is to immerse the students, aged 18 – 25 years, in the Australian culture and language to give them the best possible opportunity to develop fluency in English whilst learning about Australian culture and our way of life. In Papua, English is seen as the key to desirable employment, overseas scholarships, wider internet access and contact with the world outside their own home island. Five courses have been completed and the course is typically run biennially (pandemic permitting).
The first APCEP program, in 2010, was modelled upon a similar program the previous year initiated by Shelley Houghton, a Uniting Church Person-in-Mission in service at STIE.
That program took a large group of students to Brisbane for three months of immersion English learning and proved to be a highly effective way for students to quickly reach a high level of English fluency.
Following Shelley’s example, the BPN began a program of biennial APCEP courses during which students from Papua were selected by a panel made up of BPN members and the students’ English teachers. The students are selected on the basis of their English competence, evidence of their willingness to use their English for the benefit of their community and their suitability to fit into an Australian home and the travel group.
Although the program began within the Floreat Uniting Church, it has been embraced by the synod of Western Australia and now enjoys widespread support from the synod and individual churches. The Trinity North congregation, in particular, has taken on a substantial role in the running and support of these courses.
The program has brought great gifts to the people supporting it in the form of cultural exchange and enrichment, lasting international friendships, increased interaction and productive relationships across all the participating congregations in addition to the joys of being involved in the daily lives of these warm and enthusiastic young Papuans.
BPN members have continued to support APCEP Alumni as they return home. We have celebrated engagements, weddings and the births of children with our past students and continue to marvel at their adventures through further exchange programmes, support them through their trials and delight in their successes as they move forward in their lives.
The APCEP course builds families that spread across the world.