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Visit to Tupou College, Tonga

Good afternoon. Linda and I are delighted to be back in the Kingdom of Tonga and to meet you all.

I would like to acknowledge:

  • Guest of Honour, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Tupouto’a ‘Ulukalala – thank you for your time today
  • Lord Tangi, Chair of the Tupou College Council – thank you for your generous words
  • Reverend ‘Atiola, Principal of Tupou College — thank you for hosting us today
  • Honourable Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku
  • Chief Secretary
  • Honourable Cabinet Ministers
  • CEOs of Ministries
  • Government officials
  • And, of course, students from Tupou College

We understand that you have interrupted your holidays to welcome us. Thank you. We are looking forward to spending time with you. Thank also for hosting us today.

First, Linda and I are absolutely blown away by the music we have just experienced from you. You are all immensely talented.

We have had a busy day so far, which has been enormously satisfying.

It has included an audience with His Majesty, and meetings with His and Her Royal Highnesses — the Crown Prince and Princess — the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Now we get to meet some of Tonga’s brightest young minds and their teachers!

Indeed, I’m informed that His Late Majesty King Tupou IV was a graduate of Tupou College.

During this visit, Linda and I are visiting six Pacific countries — Samoa, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, Vanuatu and Tonga.

The purpose of our visit is to highlight the importance of Australia’s deep and enduring commitment to each one of those countries.

Tonga matters to Australia.

We have long shared a deep partnership, not just between our governments but between our peoples.

This partnership is underpinned by shared values — of family, community and democracy — and a love of sports, culture and food.

Our people-to-people links have never been stronger, with more than 43,000 people in Australia identifying as having Tongan heritage. Many Australians live and work in Tonga.

The Tongan community in Australia has made a significant contribution to our multicultural society, particularly in academia and the arts, as well as in elite sports. Taniela Tupou from the Wallabies is just one example. I know that he was born here on Tongatapu.

These people-to-people links were invaluable in the aftermath of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption and tsunami.

Australia was proud to stand alongside Tonga and support your leadership of the disaster response.

I want to commend the efforts by the Tongan Government and the resilience of the Tongan people.

Linda and I know that the volcanic disaster and the COVID-19 pandemic may have disrupted your education in a range of ways.

We congratulate both teachers and students on overcoming the challenges and staying connected.

I want to acknowledge Tonga’s strong commitment to education, noting it has the highest ratio of PhDs per capita in the world.

Furthermore, I am pleased to announce that Australia will fund invest in the construction of a new Technical and Vocational Education and Training centre here at Tupou College, to support educational outcomes and help build your futures.

Alongside His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, Linda and I will have the honour of planting a heilala  tree here at the College to symbolise the long and enduring partnership between Tonga and Australia.

An important element of this partnership is the rich history between Tupou College and Newington College in Sydney, which dates back more than 150 years and includes an exchange program.

I hope that many of you can visit Australia or study there in the future. I know that it is a life-changing experience when students from Newington get the opportunity to visit you here in Tonga.

Linda and I hope that the trees will grow and flourish alongside many generations of Tupou College students for years to come.

Can I also thank the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forests that have donated 10 Australian citrus trees (on behalf of the Australian High Commission) to be planted here at the College as part of its sustainable food programs.

As I mentioned, Tonga matters to Australia, as we are all part of the Pacific family.

Australia is committed to supporting Tonga’s education priorities and providing opportunities to further enhance our education links.

The Australia Awards Scholarships have supported more than 650 Tongans to undertake courses in Australia since 2016.

And 150 Australian students have completed mobility programs in Tonga as part of the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan initiative.

I hope that many of you will also access these opportunities in the future. And after hearing your incredible talents today, I hope there is a future in music for many of you!

Again, it is a great delight for Linda and me to be with you today and play a small part in Tupou College’s rich history.

To the students — I hope that each of you will go forward as ‘ambassadors’, representing the enduring ties between the people of Australia and Tonga. Our nations will be much the better for it!

Malo ‘aupito [Thank you very much].



[1] The T-VET Centre project is in planning and negotiation stage and the grant agreement has NOT been signed. However, the AHC has made a commitment to support the procurement and construction of a shed to be used as the building.