Australian Embassy
The Philippines

SP150420-Launch of the New Colombo Plan in the Philippines and Welcome to the First Philippine Fellow, Emily Pritchard

Remarks by Ambassador Bill Tweddell
at the Launch of the New Colombo Plan in the Philippines
and Welcome to the First Philippine Fellow, Emily Pritchard
20 April 2015

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. A warm welcome to all of you here tonight.

Thank you for joining us this evening as we celebrate the launch in the Philippines of the New Colombo Plan, a signature initiative of the Australian Government.

I would particularly like to welcome the Hon Alex Brillantes, Jr from the Commission on Higher Education. We are grateful for the strong support for the program which the Commission has already provided.

I am also pleased to see so many of our partners from universities and educational institutions across the Philippines here with us this evening. And also representatives from the business sector, who will play an important role in helping provide participants in the program with valuable work experience through internships and mentorships – thank you for being with us this evening.

And of course, a particular welcome to our alumni, who are a testament to the quality of Australian educational services and the partnership which exists between the Philippines and Australia.

Tonight we are also joined by the Hon Willem Westra van Holthe, the Deputy Chief Minister in the Northern Territory Government – a warm welcome and special thank-you for joining us this evening, Deputy Chief Minister, as we launch the New Colombo Plan here in the Philippines. It’s wonderful to have you in the Philippines and in attendance tonight – your presence underlines that Australian interest in strong relations with the Philippines is a priority not just for the Federal Government but at State and Territory level as well.

Tonight is our opportunity to celebrate the launch of this exciting new program – the New Colombo Plan - in the Philippines. This flagship initiative of the Australian Government aims to increase Australians’ understanding of the Indo-Pacific region by supporting Australian undergraduate students to study and undertake internships in the region. In 2014, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, announced the further expansion of the program to 35 countries, including the Philippines.

We are therefore very pleased to welcome this evening our first-ever Philippines Fellow, Ms Emily Pritchard, who is here with us tonight. In a short while we will hear from Emily, and I know already that her experience studying here in the Philippines has been invaluable.

In January, when I first had the opportunity to welcome Emily, I told her that her scholarship was built on many years of strong links between education institutions in the Philippines and Australia, and that she was joining a proud group of alumni from both our countries who valued immensely the experiences they have shared whilst undertaking studies in both countries. We look forward to hearing from you, Emily.

This year the New Colombo Plan has been greatly expanded by the Australian Government; there are around 70 young Australians undertaking fully-funded scholarships to study throughout the region this year, as well as around $A8 million in grants through Australian universities and institutions to support students on shorter term exchanges. In the Philippines, we will welcome around 40 students as part of the program for 2015.

My experience as a diplomat since 1976 has led me to value greatly the experience of spending time in another country: knowing the people and the culture helps to build knowledge and understanding of each other. This is the experience we want to pass on to our students.

We want to inspire young Australians to be deeply engaged with the region; through this program, some of our most talented students will have the opportunity to learn not only valuable academic lessons but to experience working and living in our neighbourhood. We hope that networks develop which see our people-to-people links in the region grow even stronger.

I know that Australian students who come to the Philippines stand to gain much from the depth of experience which is available here. So many of our alumni also tell us that part of the rich experience they enjoy in the Philippines is the opportunity to study, live, and work alongside Filipino colleagues. I look forward to hearing many more of those stories. Tonight, drawing together universities, business and alumni is the start of working together to make this a reality.

Let me encourage those of you from universities and other institutions to continue to search out and develop links with Australian institutions in order to take advantage, not only of the benefits of the New Colombo Plan, but also of the rich academic partnerships which we can share. The Embassy is here to help in any way we can in establishing the connections between our universities to build these partnerships.

We encourage the business sector to support the New Colombo Plan and to partner with us, and, with the universities in Australia and the Philippines, to help train work-ready Australian graduates with regional experience.

Business will play an important part in building economic and trade links in the region in the future – so there is great value in developing the skills of our young people today to work towards that goal.

Over time, we hope that this sort of experience will become a rite of passage for Australian students. We are investing significantly, and ask you – universities, business, and alumni – to partner with us to continue to grow the strong educational links we already share and to help deepen our people-to-people connections.

Education has long been an important part of the strong Philippines – Australia relationship. The number of students studying in both countries continues to grow, supported by a proud group of alumni who pay tribute to the quality of education they have received. This includes alumni who were involved as part of the original Colombo Plan, who travelled to Australia as part of that program which began in the 1950s. These young students were then well-placed to return home and make a contribution to their own countries. And hopefully, they took with them more than an education, but a fondness and understanding of Australia.

I am proud that the Philippines and Australia share a strong value for education, and proud that education continues to draw our people together today.

Thank you all once again for being here this evening. This truly is an important program and tonight’s launch is another example of the close cooperation we already enjoy. I know that the program will offer significant opportunities for our students, both in Australia and the Philippines.