Papuan students on learning, living and language

The 2017 Australian-Papuan Cultural Exchange Program (APCEP) cohort are on a mission to make their world a better place.

A group of students from from Papua and West Papua, where English is a valuable skill, have recently spent 12 weeks in Perth learning about Australian culture whilst studying English language.

“Learning English and being able to converse in English will open many doors for the students. They get to bring back their knowledge and share it with their community,” said APCEP program co-ordinator and host family volunteer, Lee-Anne Burnett.

APCEP began in 2010 and is managed by volunteers from the Black Pearl Network (BPN), a sub-group of the Creative Living Centre, part of Trinity North and Floreat Uniting Churches. The  program is in partnership with the Evangelical Christian Church in the Land of Papua.

During their stay, students aged 18 to 25 live with host families in Perth. For Lee-Anne, hosting Edita Wader, 22, was a special time.

“It has been a joy to be a host,” Lee-Anne said. “My family has been enriched by having Edita stay with us. She’s helped us see Perth through different eyes.”

A typical day for the nine students started with a bus or train ride to All Saints Floreat Uniting Church for English classes, a quick lunch, and a date with their conversation partners who whisk them off to fun places to practise their English. They are always on the move and after a long day, come home to their host families, who then plan more activities for them. They have visited many  places of interest such Rottnest Island, Elizabeth Quay, Rockingham, the University of Western Australia and Royal Perth Hospital. They even stopped by the Uniting Church Centre to say hello to  staff, including Rev Steve Francis, Moderator of the Uniting Church WA.

As well as English, the students learned important lessons about themselves.

For Imelda Hubi, 21, visiting the Warehouse Café in Shenton Park inspired her. The Warehouse Café is a UnitingCare West program and café which supports people living with a disability.  Imelda, whose sister is living with a disability, found it empowering that people cheerfully worked at the café. Someday, she hopes to open a similar space. Some indulged in their love of sports,  like rugby fan Edita, who even got the attention of Heath Tessman of the Western Force Rugby Club, and Otto Soor, 21 who loved watching the Perth Glory soccer match at NIB stadium.

Cecilia Jambuani, 20 formed important bonds.

“It is not just about learning English,” Cecilia said. “It’s about love, care, how to understand people, learning about different cultures and learning about the future. I had four mums before I came to Perth and now I have five. We can’t take actual stuff back home, but we can take home our ideas, experience and memories.”

Though they faced challenges such as acclimatising to the weather and food preferences and missing loved ones, they excitedly agreed it was worth it. At the end of the program, students   graduated at Trinity North Uniting Church, Greenwood Worship Centre, where they received a special book documenting their entire stay and a certificate.


Every two years, APCEP hosts a maximum of 15 students. The next intake is in 2019. BPN are keen to hear from potential volunteers who are able to teach English, become a conversation partner, host a student or make a donation. For more information, contact Lee-Anne on 9387 2957 or 0414 153 323.

Top image: Edita, centre left, with some of her host family at a Western Force rugby game.

Elsa Samuel

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