Australians visit region

ESCANABA – Four young professionals from Australia visiting the Upper Peninsula say they’re impressed with the region’s community-minded, positive and friendly people .

A teacher, attorney, rescue team leader and a health policy officer, along with their group leader, were guests at Friday’s meeting of the Rotary Club of Escanaba where they each spoke. The Aussies are participating in a month-long international cultural exchange program through a Rotary district in New South Wales. The four were chosen for a group study in the Michigan/Wisconsin Rotary District.

“The purpose is to give these people a chance to interact with a different culture,” explained group leader Richard Booth, a Rotarian from the New South Wales district. The four young business individuals are not Rotarians, he noted.

The group arrived May 2 at Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport via San Francisco and Chicago, said Booth.

They stayed in Appleton for a few days and made their way to the U.P., making stops in Menominee, Iron Mountain and Escanaba. Their itinerary also includes stops in Marquette and Houghton.

Along the way, the group has visited various businesses including vocations similar to their own work. They’ve also been participating in recreational activities and eating out at local restaurants.

In Escanaba, the group visited NewPage, rode mountain bikes along a local trail, and participated in a beer-tasting event at Hereford and Hops Steakhouse and Brew Pub.

“We are having a ball,” Booth told the local Rotarians on Friday.

“One of the great things is we live in people’s home,” he added, expressing appreciation for their hosts from Escanaba.

In addition to offering the young professionals an opportunity to visit vocations and stay with host families in the U.S., the leadership exchange program also fosters lasting friendships and international understanding.

During Friday’s Rotarian meeting, the five guests gave presentations on their background and employment.

Booth is the only one who had not visited the United States before this trip. He was a teacher, school executive, principal, and inspector prior to retiring as a school superintendent. He is a field supervisor, lecturer and tutor at the University of Western Sydney.

Booth offered advice to potential visitors to Australia warning them of venomous snakes and spiders. He added, “We don’t ride kangaroos to work.”

Alex Lynch, a health policy advisor, spoke about his community of Heberfield, Australia, where there is a strong Italian population. He said Australia is a multi-cultural country of people from around the world including migrants from Asia lately.

Comparing Australia and America, Lynch said the countries have similar health policy issues. He added that the U.S. has “fantastic health care.”

Regarding the people here, Lynch commented that everyone has an opinion but are “far more measured,” or positive, than Americans are portrayed to be.

Kate Gould is an attorney, known as a “solicitor” in Australia. She is from Wollongong where she practices criminal law and estate planning. She said the legal system in Australia is similar to the U.S. because they are both based on British law.

Gould said she is impressed with the community involvement where she has visited here in the states. She commented that people are so willing to help out with local organizations.

Anna Habeck, a rescue team member from Kiama, Australia, has performed a lot of volunteer work. She is pursuing a doctor’s degree to work in the acute emergency medicine field.

When she returns home from her trip, Habeck said she will tell others about the open, welcoming, friendly and happy people she has met in the United States.

Ben Cook, a teacher from Sydney, said he has also enjoyed the hospitality of Americans. He appreciates the opportunity to enjoy the culture here including the restaurants and bars. He also likes the chance to visit rural areas where there are forests, lakes and other natural surroundings.

Cook teaches at a small school that educates homeless and disadvantaged teens in the Sydney region. He also plays rugby and touch football. He commented that Australia is a sports-minded nation like the U.S.

The group study exchange program was launched by Rotary International in 1965 to develop professional and leadership skills among young adults so they can address community needs and an increasingly-global workplace.