When council employee Alex Mowbray visited Goulburn's sister-city in Japan last year, she had no idea she'd end up working there.
But now she's teaching in Shibetsu and enjoying the experience, according to her parents, Max and Bev McGreevy.
They were among more than 80 guests who attended a civic reception at The Mercure for a nine-member visiting delegation from the Hokkaido city on Tuesday night. The group includes Shibetsu Mayor Yuji Makino, the council chairman, Tetsuyuki Matsugahira, councillors, Chamber of Commerce and other business representatives and a landscape gardener. The event also marked the 20th anniversary of the sister-city agreement.
Alex, who speaks fluent Japanese, is reaping the benefits of the relationship. In July, 2018 the council's waste recycling officer joined a Goulburn Mulwaree delegation to Shibetsu. There she secured a position teaching English in two schools for 12 months.
"She loves it there," Mr McGreevy said.
He and Mrs McGreevy, a part-time teacher, have visited and planned for another trip next year. Mrs McGreevy has also chaperoned a student exchange there. In addition, their son Tom is living in Shibetsu.
Alex is due back in December. She's just one of 250 people who have exchanged visits as a result of the cities' friendship.
Mayor Makino highlighted the fact at Tuesday's dinner. He said he and the delegation were overwhelmed by Monday's welcome to Goulburn and its guard of honour.
"We are looking forward to deeper connections between Goulburn and Shibetsu," he said through an interpreter.
Sydney-based Japanese consul-general to Australia, Kiya Masahiko, said the opening of the Shibetsu garden in Victoria Park on Monday enhanced the friendship. He hoped the ties would be passed on through future mayors and students.
Mr Masahiko said the relationship emerged from a common interest in wool growing; Shibetsu is known for its Suffolk sheep and Goulburn, its merinos.
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Mayor Bob Kirk told the crowd that Goulburn had three other sister-cities, four friendship agreements around the world and three other places were seeking formal ties.
"Without a doubt the connection with Shibetsu has been the most active and productive," he said.
Cr Kirk noted that the Japanese city had a Goulburn rose garden which in turn had led to Goulburn Mulwaree establishing the Shibetsu Garden in Victoria Park, which was opened on Monday. The mayor said he appreciated Shibetsu Council's input into the planning and design.
The two mayors exchanged framed photos of each other's cities and other gifts.
Hume MP Angus Taylor also spoke of the enduring trade ties, particularly with wool, over many years. On Wednesday he hosted the delegation at Parliament House. Mr Taylor has visited Japan numerous times but not to Shibetsu.
He told the gathering that former Prime Minister Robert Menzies had opened up free trade between the two countries and this relationship was reflected in the sister-city agreement.
Goulburn Chamber of Commerce president Mark Bradbury and members attended the civic reception. Mr Bradbury spoke to his Shibetsu Chamber of Commerce chairman of general affairs committee, Takao Ota. He apologised for the lack of time to arrange a meeting.
"The Goulburn Chamber of Commerce will be ensuring that it is informed as soon as possible of the dates for the next (local) delegation's visit to Shibetsu and encouraging members to go," he said.
The group also enjoyed a visit to Taralga Wildlife Park, the town's museum and cafe on Tuesday before returning to Goulburn for a tour of Tribe Brewery and shopping at the Big Merino. They departed Australia on Thursday morning.
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