“I really want to take this opportunity to inform you of how professional and thorough I believe Palms to be.  I personally enjoyed every minute of the pre-departure course. Not only was the location great, but the planning and structure of the briefing is a credit to all the staff involved.”

In 1961, Palms Australia held its first ever Orientation Course for Australians undertaking an assignment abroad.  Since then Palms Australia’s expert-led training has become nationally renowned as essential preparation for effective engagement in international development.

Pre-departure preparation is an important part of making an effective contribution overseas and a compulsory step in preparation for our international program participants. Whether working in development, diplomacy or business, the impact of miscommunication across cultures should not be underestimated. A small early investment in preparation when working in a new culture can have an invaluable impact.

Our training philosophy

It’s not as simple as speaking the language.

In every interaction with another human, we all bring own expectations, pre-suppositions, desires, demands and baggage. People working cross-culturally are more successful when they have a better understanding of the culture they are immersed in. Closer relationships are formed and trust is developed, resulting in more effective and sustainable programs.

It’s not just about achieving outcomes.

Working across cultures can be a stressful experience. The intercultural worker may suffer from stress, loneliness, confusion, frustration, isolation and even trauma. These challenges will undoubtedly affect their work performance, but they may also negatively affect a person’s long-term wellbeing.

Included in Palms Australia’s cross-cultural toolkit are strategies for self-care, adapting to a new culture and managing relationships. When a worker is equipped with an understanding of how and why they think, behave and react in their new host culture, they can work more effectively in the long term, both abroad and at home.

It’s not as easy as reading a manual.

While Palms Australia’s pre-departure preparation materials include a small amount of reading, a theoretical understanding of cross-cultural communication is not sufficient. Palms Australia understands that each person and situation is unique, so we’ve developed an in-person training program that can be scaled and applied universally.

Our training provides practical skills, built upon a solid theoretical foundation, to help participants communicate effectively and keep safe in their host culture. Participants also learn from each other through enjoyable and interactive practical activities. This helps keep learnings from the program memorable and effective in the field.

If you’re considering working, volunteering, studying, living, or simply travelling cross-culturally, attending Palms Australia’s Orientation Course will ensure your experience reaches its full potential for both yourself and your host community.

Our training style

We understand that every person has their own unique learning style.  In order to cater for all preferences, Palms Australia’s Orientation Course involves a variety of activities to suit a variety of learning styles.  Various presenters will host workshops based on their area of expertise.  Sessions are generally interactive and include small group activities and discussion.  Simulations, field trips and meditations help participants to put concepts into action.

Topics we cover

  • Interpersonal, mental and physical health
  • Language development
  • Indigenous issues
  • Cultural competency
  • Development dilemmas
  • Mentoring and skill exchange
  • Cross-cultural and developmental scenarios
  • Experience from the field

In addition, Palms Australia’s qualified and experienced Placement Coordinator builds on learning at the course with individual guidance that will assist you to manage personal, development and cross-cultural challenges throughout your placement.

The location

Our January courses are held at the picturesque Hartzer Park Retreat Centre in Bowral, NSW. Set on 16 acres of lush countryside 90 minutes from Sydney, Hartzer Park is in a world of its own and is renowned for providing a tranquil, peaceful escape.

In the cooler months, participants join us at Mount Carmel Retreat Centre in Varroville, one hour from Sydney’s CBD, near Minto. Both locations are removed from the busyness of life and offer our course participants space for reflection and escape. We’d call it a holiday retreat if it weren’t for everything you will learn, reflect upon and experience.

The mix of learning activities developed over many years by our innovative educators and presented by experienced practitioners and experts will allow you to meet that challenge ahead of you. The cross-fertilisation of ideas among participants is also an extremely valuable component of the course. You still have at least two hours each afternoon before dinner to walk around the property, take in the views, engage in a fun team sport, find a quiet corner for reflection and reading or talk to our experienced counsellors.  It’s a retreat and a holiday!

For those joining us from interstate by plane, we can arrange for an airport pick up. We usually have volunteers offering this service, so talk to us before booking any flights and we will inform you of the best time to arrive to enable your pick-up.

For those who will be driving, there is parking available at both venues. For those unable to drive we may be able to arrange a lift to the venue. If you need further assistance or would like to discuss your travel arrangements, please give us a call before registering.


Those who have made a $300 donation within the 12 months prior to the beginning of the course will not incur any training costs. Palms will seek other donors to cover the full costs of your training. Those who have not made a $300 donation within the 12 months prior to the beginning of the course will incur full training costs. Please confirm your attendance by filling out the registration form below.


Palms Australia’s preparation includes all meals, accommodation, staff time, facilitator costs and materials provided at the Orientation Course, as well as the provision of correspondence units, reflective material, and consultation with our placement coordinator, before and after the course.

Attendance should be confirmed at least two weeks prior to the course so that we can finalise numbers and arrangements with the venue. If you have any questions regarding the course program or costs, don’t hesitate to contact us as soon as possible at 0422 472 567 or [email protected].

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