Australian Embassy
The Philippines

SP131010 - Message Stick


Thank you, Nick, for that introduction.

Good evening

  • Congressman Nancy Catamco of the 2nd District of North Cotabato
  • Dr Emelita Almosara, Executive Director of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts
  • Ms Mariles Gustilo, Senior Director of the Ayala Foundation
  • Mr Erwin Caliba of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples

and thank you all for joining us this evening for the opening of “Message Stick: Indigenous Identity in Urban Australia'”.

This contemporary exhibit has recently travelled through the Pacific – in New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

And it is the first Australian visual arts exhibition to undertake an extensive tour of Africa.

Now the exhibit has come through Asia.

We are pleased to host it in Manila, and particularly delighted to do so here at the world-class Ayala Museum.

Thank you to the wonderful, professional team here at the Museum, and for the kindness and generosity of the officers and board members – thank you Ms Gustilo, who is here today to represent Mr Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Chairman Emeritus of Ayala Corporation and Chairman of the Ayala Museum.

This exhibit gives us the opportunity to honour Australia’s Indigenous heritage and Australia’s commitment to Indigenous cultures.

Many of the works are influenced by, or reflect on, the Stolen Generations and the National Apology by the Australian Parliament in 2008.

For those of you who may not be aware, the Stolen Generations is a term which refers to Aboriginal and Islander children who were forcibly removed from their families in the belief that they could be better cared for by non-Indigenous families.

The national apology in 2008 was an important statement of healing between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

We continue to honour and respect the culture and heritage of our Indigenous people.

Our new Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said that he wishes to be the “Prime Minister of Indigenous Affairs” and ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Island affairs become a whole-of-government priority.

An interesting story about Mr Abbott is the amount of time he has spent in remote Indigenous communities. Since 2007, he has spent about ten days a year as a volunteer in remote Aboriginal communities, helping build and refurbish libraries in local schools, and even worked as a teacher’s aide.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Australian Government not only supports Indigenous people at home but also globally.

In April 2009 Australia announced its support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As many of you would be aware, the UN Declaration is a culmination of decades of work, and reflects the unique place of Indigenous peoples and their entitlement to all human rights as recognised in international law. And Australia is proud to adopt the UN Declaration, alongside the Philippines.

This evening also gives us an opportunity to continue our partnership with the National Commission of the Culture and the Arts to celebrate the Philippines Indigenous Peoples Month. This joint celebration underlines one of the similarities between Australia and the Philippines - both countries have rich Indigenous cultures that form a vital part of our national identity.

Our partnership with the Philippines on Indigenous issues also extends to development cooperation.

Australian Government assistance to Philippine Indigenous peoples has helped improve education with the implementation of indigenised curriculum benefiting more than 60,000 children under the Philippines’ Response to Indigenous Peoples and Muslim Education (PRIME) programs with the Department of Education.

Since 2006, the Embassy’s Direct Aid Program has provided approximately Php10 million to programs which contribute to Indigenous peoples’ welfare and income-generating capacity.

I look forward to greater engagement and dialogue between Australia and the Philippines on many common interests including those on Indigenous issues.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for your attention and I now declare this exhibition open.