Speech at the announcement of the 2017 New Colombo Plan recipients
31 August 2016

Simon Birmingham: Well, thank you very much Emma for that welcome and for your role in MCing today and providing a real demonstration to all those assembled here of the calibre and quality of New Colombo Plan- Plan participants, of the individuals who have represented Australia, engaged with the world and, as you are in your new role with DFAT, going on to demonstrate great success and contribution and value from this plan back into the Australian community.

My colleague the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, thank you for the opportunity to share the stage with you in one of your signature policy achievements as Minister for Foreign Affairs and there is no doubt that you can, should, and I am confident are proud of what the New Colombo Plan is achieving and what you have managed to achieve and the leadership you brought to this important complement to Australia’s diplomatic framework, Australia’s foreign policy arrangements but also an important complement to our education strategies and our international education environment.

The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and Shadow Foreign Minister, Senator Penny Wong and Mr Wong, thank you very much for joining us today and providing that vivid connection which I’m sure we’ll hear about in terms of what the original Colombo Plan brought and what we hope, in a different way, to build upon and are building upon through this program.

We speak much about the benefits of international education nowadays and I acknowledge the vice-chancellors and other representatives of Australia’s outstanding education institutions that are in the room today and they are educating many thousands of people from around the world and particularly from around our region by providing opportunities that aren’t just beneficial to those individuals that of course are of enormous benefit to the Australian community and economy.

But an important pillar of the licence upon which Australia operates as a provider of education opportunities for people around the world is that we also engage in educational opportunities in the countries within our region, that it is a two-way street and a two-way relationship in the exchange and flow of students, of knowledge and the building of all that goes with that exchange. Because it’s not just about economic benefits that flow, it’s about cultural enrichment that occurs and over time, it is the fact that through the knowledge gained, the connections acquired, the cultural understandings that are appreciated, by Australians studying abroad and people studying in Australia, we know that we will have stronger, richer business and economic ties that endure in the future, stronger, richer, diplomatic ties that can build better frameworks in the future, stronger, richer security ties that can make us safer in the future.

It is through all of these connections that we have managed to build a bond from the original Colombo Plan but today, through a very strong exchange of students both to and from Australia, we know that we will be incredibly well-placed in the future. And it’s in that spirit that we celebrate the recognition of another 7400 mobility grant recipients and we acknowledge the value and the importance of the New Colombo Plan alumni and their role in providing an ongoing network of contacts, contacts that they will share amongst one another as they move through government, business, community and social services, all walks of Australian life as they move in and out of Australia during their, no doubt, mobile careers that will come following their studies.

But all of that sharing of knowledge, contacts and information will of course enable each of them to do that much more through the alumni network to succeed in their roles and to contribute more to Australia. So, I want to thank all those who, in business, in education have helped to make this government program such a success and particularly congratulate those members of the ACT alumni who are with us today and those who may be about to or have the opportunity in the future to participate in one of these mobility grants and in the New Colombo Plan. It’s an outstanding success, it’s a great program and it is one that we will live the benefits of not just over the next couple of years but for many decades to come. Thanks very much.