SISTER Cities Australia has awarded Port Stephens the best overall program award for 2018-19 jointly with Bundaberg (Qld) at this month’s AGM and Forum in Perth.
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Port Stephens has a very active Sister Cities program which has seen the Seaside Singers tour Japan and local sailors compete across the globe.
Port Stephens Sister Cities secretary Kevin Atkins returned to the bay with trophies for Port Stephens and our sister cities Tateyama, Yugawara and Kushiro (Japan), and Bellingham (U.S.).
Kevin Atkins of the Port Stephens Sister Cities Committee told News Of The Area, “Our vision is world peace through citizen diplomacy,” Mr Atkins said.
“The key to our organisation’s value to our community lies not in huge funding, which we don’t have, but our ability to leverage off home hosting.”
In 2018/19, Port Stephens provided 259 nights of home hosting to international guests, while Port Stephens travellers enjoyed 346 nights of home hosting overseas.
He believes that home hosting is key as it underwrites the major costs of accommodation and travel but, more importantly, provides the real cultural interaction and understanding it brings.
“It’s great to receive acknowledgment for what turned out to be a very busy year of sporting, cultural and educational exchanges,” said Mr Atkins.
“These included the PacRim yachting regatta in New Zealand, dancers from Bellingham performing in schools here, marathon running events in the Hunter Valley, Tateyama and Bellingham, a visit by students from Yugawara, our own SeaSide Singers performing in Japan and attendance by our Council’s Mayor and General Manager at a sister cities mayoral summit in Bellingham.
“The common denominator in most cases was home-hosting, enabling everyone to experience a different culture and make lasting friendships,” he said.
Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer said the award is well-deserved.
“Port Stephens Sister Cities do a wonderful job broadening our cultural experience and cultivating lifelong friendships across the globe. As a community, we’re richer for the work they do.
“I wish to congratulate them on receiving this fantastic award,” he said.
By Marian SAMPSON