Speech to the Universities Australia fostering engagement with alumni
10 April 2017

Simon Birmingham: Thank you very much, Jane. And congratulations to you and Chancellor John Stanhope and Deakin on your wonderful accomplishment today with the two prime ministers commissioning the project and I look forward to the unveiling, cutting the ribbon, and visiting the site tomorrow.

Good afternoon to all. My commiserations to those who might be hearing me speak for the third or fourth time today. But to other new faces in the room it is a pleasure to be with you for this event particularly focusing on the alumni from the Australian India education partnership and relationship.

I learnt something a little earlier today whilst we were at the event with the two prime ministers and chatting with others. I was told- and this is one of those stories that could be quite insightful or it could have been leading me well and truly up the garden path to a point where I make a fool of myself in this setting. I was told that apparently MasterChef in Australia is quite popular in India. The Australian version of MasterChef is quite popular here. And whilst I can’t say that I get much time to watch MasterChef, I know that those judges who sit on those shows, look at people’s cooking often talk about the hero of the dish, a particular ingredient that stands out as the one big factor.

I think about international education and all that we seek to achieve by virtue of the partnerships that we encourage and foster across the education landscape. Alumni are the hero of the relationship, are the hero of our international education arrangements. And why is that? Because, of course, they are the end products. They are people who have secured, potentially, the learning, their knowledge, their qualifications that they sought from that partnership. There are of course the people who more importantly though go on to provide the real benefits that two nations like Australia and India derive from that exchange.

Because yes there are benefits, of course, during the study that occurs of individuals in one another’s country. But the real benefits are stronger cultural ties and understanding that last not just one or two years but through lifetimes as a result of the time people could spend studying in each other’s countries. The real benefits are the stronger economic, business, political, diplomatic, security, research, relationships that are built to last as a result of the fact that we have growing [indistinct] of individuals who have a much richer understanding of each other’s nation.

That’s why we are very proud, as a government, to support two way mobility. It’s why we’ve invested through the New Colombo Plans alongside Endeavour Scholarships to make sure that there are more Australians who come and have an experience, study, learning, researching here in India. And it’s why we’re absolutely thrilled to support around 68,000 Indian students that studied in Australia last year. Because those tens of thousands of students going in both directions provide the base for all of the gains we will get in years to come as a result of the experiences they have had and the learnings that they take back both academically and culturally from their time in our two nations. And so I really want to congratulated Universities Australia, in particular, for coordinating this event but more importantly of course for the work done collectively across our education and training institutions in the development of alumni.

I know we’re all thrilled to hear the main event today. Kieran, of course, one of the esteemed alumni and the leader in the work that is being done to ensure that we do maximise those long term benefits that flow in terms of the cultural understanding exchange and continual relationship building that flow from international education. So Kieran, thank you very much. Thank you for those who have participate and lead and enjoy the alumni network. Jane and all the team at UA, thank you for the work that you’re doing in continuing to drive this. And a big particular thank you to the many faces in the audience so I suspect are some of the alumni here today from across the different educational experiences – whether it’s in higher education, vocational education and training, English language or school education – thank you for coming and making this celebration so possible.

Minister Birmingham’s media contact: James Murphy 0478 333 974
Nick Creevey 0447 664 957