Opening Remarks by Deputy Head of Mission Andrew Byrne
Launch of ‘Scientists in School’ Initiative
University of the Philippines- College of Medicine
11 May 2011
I would like to thank you for being here this morning for the screening of ‘Catching Cancer’, which took place earlier this morning, and for the lecture of Professor Ian Frazer.
Today also marks the launch of the Australian Embassy’s ‘Scientists in Schools’ initiative. It is a privilege to be able to have Professor Frazer, distinguished Australian scientist and cervical cancer vaccine pioneer, launch the program here at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, a Centre of Excellence for medical education in the country, and home of mga ‘Iskolar ng Bayan’ or 'Scholars of the Nation’.
I would like to acknowledge the support of the University of the Philippines-Manila Chancellor Dr Ramon Arcadio, UP College of Medicine Dean Dr Albert Roxas, who is out of the country at the moment, Dr Lourdes Capito and Dr Lala Aquino.
Under the Australian Embassy’s ‘Scientists in Schools’ program we aim to bring an Australian scientist each year to secondary and tertiary schools to help build on existing efforts to raise appreciation for science education, research and innovation. Supporting the priorities of the Aquino administration, we hope to increase awareness of the important roles that science, technology and innovation play in ensuring the well-being of society and the environmentally sustainable growth of the economy.
The Department of Science and Technology has many laudable programs for raising appreciation for science and innovation, and we at the Australian Embassy hope to support the Department’s goals.
Australia has a strong record of innovation and achievement with our scientists at the forefront of a number of breakthroughs that have benefited millions of people around the world. Science, innovation and research have been crucial to Australia’s long-term prosperity. Australian innovations include:
- the Black Box flight recorder, used by investigators to determine the cause of a plane crash
- wireless LANs – which is now the most popular way to connect computers without wires in offices, public buildings, homes and coffee shops - often called 'WiFi Hotspots', WiFi has paved the way for people to get hold of information anytime, anywhere
- cloud seeding to address Australia’s insufficient water supplies
Australian medical research has led to significant contributions to world health. Along with Professor Frazer’s cervical cancer vaccine, Australian discoveries include the ultrasound, cochlear implant, heart pacemaker, anti-flu medication, artificial cornea, and skin polarprobe.
Of the eleven Nobel Prizes awarded to Australians since 1915, ten have been for groundbreaking work in medicine (one in Literature): from immunology, neurosciences, organ transplants, the development of penicillin to treat infections, to work in identifying the role played by a bacterium in gastritis and peptic ulcers.
The Australian Government sees the vital role innovation and research plays in productivity and economic growth and in addressing the challenges we face. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation – CSIRO - Australia’s primary government research and development institution, is one of the world’s largest and most diverse research institutions. Its staff of 6500 scientists, researchers and other staff are working in more than 50 laboratories and field stations in Australia and overseas, undertaking vital research on agribusiness, information technology, manufacturing, health, sustainable energy, mining and minerals, space, the environment and natural resources.
Recent outcomes of the CSIRO’s cooperative research program have been the development of continuous-wear contact lenses, a new test for detecting avian influenza, an electronic train-braking system that will contribute significantly to the safety of the rail industry, and a greenhouse gas mitigation project involving the transport and deep geological storage of carbon dioxide.
Australia is also nurturing the nation’s skills base by improving the quality of science education in educational institutions and providing rewarding career paths in science to further strengthen Australia’s science and innovation capabilities. These measures have made Australia highly capable and experienced in providing world class education in academic fields such as medicine, sciences and the humanities.
Australia’s high quality biomedical science and education sector has seen a number of global success stories which demonstrate Australia’s capabilities in this area. Our research capabilities especially in higher education have been developing rapidly.
Australian education enjoys extensive support from the Government particularly in funding for higher education research. From 2004-09, over $3 billion (or PHP120 billion) of Government funding was allocated for more than 20,000 new and ongoing research programs. This in turn has made Australian universities an attractive destination for the best and brightest from all over the world for advanced studies, research and international collaboration.
In the Philippines, Australia’s current education assistance amounts to PHP2 billion, or almost half of our bilateral development program. Much of this assistance is concentrated on basic education, particularly in Mindanao, but we also provide tertiary scholarships for Filipinos to pursue higher education in Australia. Since the late 1940s, over 2,000 Filipinos have been awarded scholarships to study in Australia.
This year we are increasing the number of scholarships for the Philippines to a minimum of 120. We have two separate streams of scholarships, the Development Awards (applications for which close on 31 May) and the Endeavour Awards (applications for which close on 30 June). If any of you are interested in exploring the opportunities to study in Australia, I urge you to visit the Embassy’s website:
In addition to raising appreciation for science education in schools, I hope that our Scientists in Schools program will encourage future collaboration between Filipino and Australian medical and scientific researchers. I hope that Professor Frazer’s lecture, his deep sense of social responsibility and his infectious enthusiasm for research will inspire Filipinos to embark on a fulfilling journey in science and research.