Pre-Departure Briefing for Australia Awards Scholars
5 November 2012
I am pleased to be here with you today, and on behalf of the Australian Government, I would like to congratulate you all for being selected for a scholarship to study in Australia. This is an achievement that you can be justifiably proud of.
Let me convey my special congratulations to the 14 Australian Leadership Award Scholarship awardees. Only 200 Australian Leadership Awards are awarded each year to current and emerging leaders in the Asia-Pacific Region and we are pleased that Filipinos will be so well-represented in the 2013 cohort of Australian Leadership Awardees. This is testament to the high quality of scholars in the Philippines.
Australia Awards go to the best and brightest from both the public and private sectors.
Your Australia Award is an indication that your respective organisations and communities — our key development partners — recognise your potential to be leaders and change agents.
Australia Awards will allow you to further hone your skills and competencies in Australia’s premier learning and research institutions. It will equip you to take on more significant and more challenging roles in the development of the Philippines.
The Aquino Administration has set out an ambitious reform agenda for the Philippines – expanding the basic education curriculum (K to 12); broadening the coverage of the conditional cash transfers; and vigorously pursuing peace and development efforts in Mindanao. To sustain these reforms, the Philippines needs capable and committed Filipinos – private citizens and civil servants alike. We hope that through Australia Awards, we are able to assist the Philippines to develop future leaders and improve the capability of its human resource base.
Our respective countries and people have enjoyed a warm friendship and vibrant bilateral relationship. The recent State Visit of President Aquino to Australia reflected the breadth and warmth of our bilateral relationship.
One of the most important aspects of that relationship is our development cooperation. Earlier this year, our two countries signed the Australia-Philippines Development Cooperation Program Statement of Commitment. The Statement of Commitment is the agreed framework for our development cooperation over the next 5 years.
Australian aid for the Philippines for 2012/13 is estimated to reach AUD128 Million, of which close to half is allocated for initiatives on education, including scholarships.
Education has played an important part in stimulating migration and broader people-to-people exchanges in the 1950s, when significant numbers of Filipinos were beneficiaries of Colombo Plan scholarships to study in Australia. Since then, thousands of Filipinos have studied and trained in Australia both on Australian Government scholarships and as fee-paying students.
You will be following a long tradition of Filipino scholars who have been recognised for academic excellence while in Australia. To mention just a couple of recent examples:
• Michelle Leonardo, an Australian Leadership Award Scholar, was awarded the James Ingram Prize for Excellence in Diplomatic Studies for Foreign Students at the Australian National University in 2011. The Award is conferred each year to the student who in that year... “was the most outstanding international Masters Degree student achieving the highest academic excellence in the degree... and who made the most valuable contribution to the social fabric of the Master of Diplomacy student group.”
• Alvin Gutierrez, currently studying Masters in Human Resource and Industrial Relations at the University of Sydney, was crowned champion of the 2011 Soapbox Public Speaking Competition in Sydney.
May the achievements of scholars like Michelle and Alvin inspire you to excel in your studies.
Filipino scholars are also demonstrating that scholarships can be good development tools.
• Roy Ponce, an Assistant Professor at the Davao Oriental State College of Science and Technology, established an after school care center in Taganilao, a remote fishing village in Davao Oriental. This Centre, called Happy Fish Kids, currently provides after school care to 120 school children, from Grade 1 to 3rd year high school. It is being supported by both local and international benefactors. Roy has a Master’s Degree in Assessment and Evaluation from the University of Melbourne.
• Dodette Bernaldez, after finishing a Masters in Tourism Management at James Cook University, helped improve tourism management in Loboc, Bohol resulting in the doubling of tourist arrivals and translating to an increase in tourism earnings from PhP739,000 in 2005 to PhP21.4 million in 2009. Dodette’s efforts paid off – in 2010 she was one of the awardees of the Philippine Presidential Lingkod Bayan Award, the highest honor given to a government employee.
Your Australian Journey
While in Australia, you will have the benefit of being educated in world-class Universities. Eight of the world’s top 100 Universities are in Australia. Many of you will be mentored by Nobel laureates, world-renowned academics, and industry leaders.
Your Award is also a chance for you to meet counterparts from around the world. I hope that you will establish personal and professional networks while in Australia.
In their joint statement issued on 24 October, Prime Minister Gillard and President Aquino expressed satisfaction over our close and growing people-to-people ties, citing among other things the 225,000 Filipino immigrants currently living in Australia and the 6,000 Filipino students in Australian universities — making important contribution to the Australian economy, society, and indeed Australian culture.
We hope that as scholars, you will continue and help strengthen the ties between our two countries. On a more personal note, I hope you come to know the Australia I know, and enjoy your time there.
Australia has a lot to offer – a multicultural and accepting society, beautiful landscapes, vibrant cities and a friendly and welcoming people. Make sure that, as well as focusing on your studies, you take the time to get to know Australia and its people.
Once you have completed your studies, you will all become Ambassadors for Australian education in the Philippines.
I encourage you to play an active role in promoting the institutional and people-to-people links between Australia and the Philippines by becoming active members of the Alumni Association, known as PA3i.
In closing, I would like to wish all of you the best of luck in your studies and I hope that you will have a wonderful time in Australia.
We look forward to hearing your achievements and welcoming you back in the future. I trust that you will leave Australia with a deeper understanding of our two cultures, and return to the Philippines eager and committed to practice, transfer your knowledge, and invest in your country as we, the Australian Government and people, are investing in you.
Again, congratulations and mabuhay!