New Colombo Plan 2021 Scholarships Awards Presentation Ceremony, Canberra [virtual event]
I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and pay my respects to their elders, past and present.
Good afternoon, everyone.
Linda and I are delighted to be with you for this awards ceremony that recognises the New Colombo Plan Scholars for 2021.
Congratulations to all the Scholars! You’ve obviously impressed to gain entry into this program. You now have it all in front of you. It’s a very exciting time in your career.
I’m proud to be Patron of the New Colombo Plan because it’s a program that has the big picture in mind. New Colombo Plan Scholars have an opportunity to represent Australia in the Indo-Pacific region.
Australia’s relationships with its neighbours are important, particularly given geopolitical and international economic activities in the Indo-Pacific. The Indo-Pacific is a dynamic region, critical to our nation’s future security and prosperity.
The New Colombo Plan has achieved much in its first six years.
The program has supported more than 60,000 scholars and mobility students to live, study and gain work experience in the region. That equates to an enormous amount of networking and relationship building.
The New Colombo Plan Alumni are — and will continue to be — a great asset to our nation. The Alumni Program plays an important role in developing relationships with our neighbours and is a respected group and voice in the region.
I want to say a few words to the 125 New Colombo Plan Scholars watching online. You are exceptional young Australians. You have demonstrated the potential to become significant leaders in the future. Your areas of interest which include business, medicine, engineering and agriculture and Indigenous health are critical to the performance of economies in the region.
As Scholars, you will live, study and gain work experience in 26 locations across the Indo-Pacific. You represent 38 universities from across our nation. You are also a diverse group — there are nine Indigenous Australians amongst you, and 44 of you are from regional or remote Australia. I wish all 125 of you every success. As I’ve said many times, we are at our best when we are inclusive and when we come together.
While we cannot know for certain what may happen in 2021, the New Colombo Plan nonetheless remains the opportunity of a lifetime. You will make new friends, experience new cultures, increase your skillset and develop both personally and professionally.
Whether it be in person or through virtual experiences, I encourage you to extend the hand of friendship and build connections. These interactions will enrich your life and the lives of those in the Indo-Pacific region.
Again, well done and good luck.