Wednesday, 01 November 2023
Sister Cities Australia Special Program Award
The City of Belmont were awarded the Sister Cities Australia Special Program Award for the adaptions and innovations they made to their sister city program with Adachi-ku, Japan during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sister city relationships exist to promote social, cultural, and commercial ties between cities.
The relationship between the City of Belmont and Adachi-ku has spanned 39 years, the centrepiece of which is a student exchange program that sees each city send a student delegation to the other.
Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, it was impossible for the two cities to run their student exchange program.
Wendy Parsons, Chairperson of the Belmont Sister City Association, spoke about the changes to the City’s sister city program.
"During the isolation that COVID-19 imposed, maintaining our connection with Adachi took on a new level of importance.
“Rather than see the circumstance as a hurdle, we viewed it as an opportunity to innovate and work together to strengthen our nearly 40-year relationship.
“We committed to explore and establish new ways to stay connected, ensuring our bond not only persisted but grew stronger in the face of adversity," said Ms Parsons.
The first change they made was to take their flagship student exchange program online, with students from Belmont City College swapping letters with their counterparts from Higashi Junior High School in Adachi.
The following year, they sent a new map of the City of Belmont that included local landmarks, to replace the outdated map that was hanging in Adachi's Belmont Museum.
Finally, they released The Adventures of a Belmonster in Adachi-ku, a children's book written in both English and Japanese. Copies of the book were given to primary school children in the City of Belmont and Adachi.
City of Belmont Mayor Robert Rossi was honoured to have our sister city program recognised with this award.
“We're proud of our relationship with Adachi and delighted that it could still run during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"With international travel now possible again, our sister city program is back in full swing, as are the opportunities it brings,” said Mayor Rossi.
The City's student exchange to Adachi returns in January 2024, with 16 local high school students making up the delegation.
The City has dedicated the award to the late Jan Teasdale, who participated in the first delegation to Adachi in 1984, where the original affirmation agreement was signed.
Frankston City in Victoria were joint winners for their initiatives under this Special Program award category.