BY JENAE MADDEN 

Students enrolled at the University of Newcastle are being invited to participate in the Indo-Pacific New Colombo Plan virtual Mobility Program for 2022. The initiative provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is a cultural immersion program, this year delivered online, with hopes to build students skills and better Australia’s ties with the Indo-Pacific.

This year’s grant amounts to just over $2.5 million and in the commencing 2021 round saw some 768 University of Newcastle students from 13 different study areas engage with host countries all over the Indo-Pacific including China, Fiji and 11 other host nations in the region. 

To support students’ ongoing engagement with the Indo-Pacific while travel restrictions are in place, the Government has allowed the program to go ahead modifying the exchange to facilitate online delivery.  This will be through third party online cultural exchange providers. The University of Newcastle’s Dary Milani says this way the government can still create global experiences for students.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website says the program will continue to offer people-to-people, institutional and business ties between Australia and the Indo-Pacific, stating online delivery will better the program “encourag[ing] increased diversity and participation by students for whom international travel presents challenges.”

“The government has also indicated that funding will be able to be carried over in the event that boarders do open”, says Milani, “so we are expecting that many of the students that have been successful winning funding will be able to have a partial international experience next year.”

Milani says the government are funding this project to ensure Australia remains strongly aligned with their island neighbors, “[The program] is so important to the future of relationship building, understanding diplomacy in the region and identifying business opportunities between our Indo-Pacific neighbors.”

More information can be found on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.