From the report's foreword:
Australia’s aid program focuses on assisting countries in the Asia-Pacific region. A considerable proportion of our aid goes towards assisting our Pacific Island neighbours. In the 2007-2008 financial year $872.5 million will be disbursed to the Pacific, with the majority directed to assist citizens of the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. Each of the Pacific Island states has different development needs—some more complex than others—and the Australian aid program seeks to address a wide range of them. The Australian Government does so in partnership with, principally, national governments; but also other donors, non-government organisations and local communities.
In the course of the inquiry, the Committee heard from a wide range of government and non-government stakeholders with an interest in development in the Pacific—Australians and Pacific Islanders alike.
A key theme to emerge throughout the inquiry was the need for strong people-to-people links between Australians and Pacific Islanders—not only for development reasons but also to promote a deeper understanding and better appreciation of our respective cultures.
There are claims by some that the people-to-people links between our nations (be they government-to-government, business, civil society or educational) have reduced in recent years. However, the Committee learnt that many opportunities for engagement exist and that these are increasing. For example, Australia is expanding its scholarship assistance through the Australian Scholarships Program and will double the total number of education awards offered to the region to over 19, 000.
It was with their benefits in mind that the Committee recommends that the Australian Government consider establishing a Pacific Island Youth Ambassador Scheme (similar to and possibly linked with the Australian Youth Ambassador Scheme or AusAID Development Scholarships), whereby young skilled Pacific Islanders can apply for placements in an Australian host organisation workplace for the purpose of work experience and cultural exchange. It is the Committee’s view that an exchange such as this will build further personal contacts and—in time—boost cooperative networks in Australia and the Pacific.