GETTING TO KNOW YOU Duncan Graham
If you're an Australian farmer perhaps you’ve had overseas backpackers turn up on your property looking for a bit of casual work. Maybe you’ve even employed some to take on seasonal jobs like seeding and fruit picking.
Chances are you’ve found these young people keen and interesting. Just chatting during lunch breaks can lift understanding of cultures and values for both boss and worker.
If these travellers are European they’ll have come from Britain, Holland, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, France, Italy, Belgium and Finland.
If Asian they’ll be Koreans, Chinese from Hong Kong and Taiwan, or Japanese.
These people aren’t illegal. They’re holders of a one-year Working Holiday Maker visa.
The idea is to allow single young people aged between 18 and 30 to have a holiday, get to know us and earn a bit of cash.
This year about 100,000 are expected to be wandering the wide brown spending an estimated 1.3 billion dollars – and helping out many rural enterprises along the way.
The program is reciprocal, so young Aussies can also travel and work in the countries on that list.
But did you notice a significant omission in the participating countries – Indonesia, the nation next door.
Australian authorities say the Indonesian government hasn’t asked to get involved. Maybe it hasn’t been invited.
The Indonesians I know are capable workers, innovative and interested in their southern neighbor.
Poor exchange rates and low wages in their homeland make it difficult for the average Indonesian to buy a return air ticket and have enough cash to tide them over.
But many can and will muster enough from family and friends if they know they can find well-paid work in Australia.
What’s so important about young Indonesians?
Since the independence vote in East Timor, the Bali bomb and the Schapelle Corby case the amount of misunderstanding and ignorance on both sides has been enormous.
Myth and innuendo seems to have replaced factual information.
Maybe if we meet a few more ordinary Indonesians in the workplace we’d discover that they’re not all radical terrorists – and they’d learn that we’re not all godless hedonists.
(Broadcast on ABC Radio National's Country Viewpoint program 2 August 05)