FORMER Australian rural exchangees gathered for a reunion at Margaret River earlier this year to rebuild friendships, which for some, extends back half a century.
The biennial gathering of Australian Rural Exchangees' Association members is rotated from state to state and is the social arm for people who have been hosted on international or interstate rural exchanges.
Cowaramup farmer and beef producer Ron Maidment is Association president and his wife Barabara is secretary.
They took up their positions after the last get-together in Adelaide in 2000 specifically to organise the WA function which attracted 60 people including visitors from as far as South Australia, Victoria and Queensland.
The next reunion is planned for May 2004 in Queensland.
Exchanges were first offered the opportunity to travel by the Australian Council of Young Farmers in 1952 and the program has continued under the auspices of several different organisations imparting the same lasting fellowship that has bonded successive generations.
While Gerald Rose was the first WA exchangee to leave Australia for the United States of America and the United Kingdom and Kevin Caille, who is best known for his role as Perth Royal Show councillor in charge of the sheep section, was the first to leave WA for an interstate exchange to South Australia.
The most recent WA exchangee was Syliva Ritson, Boyup Brook, who returned from the US last year.
Ron is also the South Pacific representative on the world International Farm Youth Exchange which holds a world conference every five years.
He was a former exchangee to the UK and has retained contact with the families he visited and strengthened the bond over the years by regularly attending the world conferences. It was during once such conference that he met Canadian representative Barbara, who later became his wife.
The common link between international exchangees will be reignited during a week-long international conference to be held from July 19-26, 2003 in Sweden. It will be held in Sigtuna, recognised as Sweden's oldest existing town and founded by Vikings in 980 AD and will be the eighth world conference.
Ron said all Australian Rural Exchangees' Association members should have received circulars about the reunion and conference but he is keen for former exchangees not on the mailing list to contact him on (08) 9755 5265 or email email@example.com