Australian Embassy
The Philippines

SP141212 - Book launch of Connecting Two Cultures

Keynote message by Ambassador Bill Tweddell
at the book launch of
Connecting Two Cultures: Australia and the Philippines
12 December 2014
National Historical Institute Manila

• Honourable Maria Serena Diokno, Chairperson, National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP)
• Mr Renato Perdon, author of Connecting Two Cultures
• Dr Ambeth Ocampo, former NHCP Chairperson
• Ms Emelita Almosara, former NHCP Executive Director
• Ambassador Susan Castrense, former Consul, Consulate General Sydney
• Ms Liza Viejo representing the Department of Foreign Affairs
• Ladies and gentlemen

Good morning to everyone. On days like this, at events like this, my job is a sheer joy. I am very pleased to be the guest of honour for the Manila book launch of Renato Perdon’s award-winning book “Connecting Two Cultures: Australia and the Philippines.”

But first, may I take a moment to express my sympathies for the loss of life and damage to homes and property in the wake of Typhoon Ruby – strangely enough, known outside the Philippines by the Filipino name, Hagupit!

Australia, as a close friend of the Philippines, has already provided emergency assistance to support Philippine Government relief operations, and we stand ready to provide further assistance if required.

I am both pleased and excited to be part of this morning’s program. I always look forward to gatherings and opportunities to be with our partners in government, actively involved in strengthening our cultural and people-to-people links.

Our friendships and people-to-people ties are the foundations of our prospering partnership.

It is now nearly 70 years since Australia established diplomatic relations with the Philippines. Our two countries continue to enjoy a warm and close friendship, based on historical ties, common values and our shared national, as well as regional, interests.

The breadth and depth of our relations cut across numerous fields, ranging from development assistance, defence and immigration issues, to regional and security cooperation, trade and investment.

A key linkage between Australia and the Philippines has always been our people-to-people ties, which have been escalating through trade, investment, cultural exchange, education, tourism and migration.

The timing of this book launch is significant, as December is the Month of Overseas Filipinos and in a few days, on 18 December, we commemorate International Migrants Day.

I extend my warmest congratulations to the two Filipino Australians who are being honoured by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas this month – author Renato Perdon, who will receive next Friday the Migration Advocacy and Media (MAM) Best Print Award for best book; and artist Alfredo Roces who was honoured in Malacanang last Friday as a 2014 outstanding Filipino Overseas. As you all know, Mr Roces wrote the foreword to this award-winning book.

Australian society has been enriched by migration, and Ding Roces and Renato Perdon are testaments to that.

Australia is proudly multicultural. Over the last 50 years, Australia has attracted migrants from all over the globe, in the process becoming one of the world’s most multicultural nations. While the majority of our earliest migrants were Europeans, these days our population includes a large proportion of Asian migrants.

Since the 1960s, Filipinos remain one of the fastest growing immigrant communities in Australia and more than 250,000 Filipinos now call Australia home.

In 2013 the number of Filipino students enrolled in Australian education jumped by 26.3 per cent from the previous year, and now stands at 8,400. And by next year we look forward to Australian students studying here in the Philippines under the New Colombo Plan.

You will note that my own contribution to Renato’s book is an article on education, a cornerstone of the strong and enduring friendship between Australia and the Philippines. Education is a key focus of our development assistance program in the Philippines. Australia is the largest donor to the Philippine education sector.

Earlier this year, Australia announced $150M funding assistance through the Basic Education Sector Transformation (or BEST) program, which will benefit more than eight million students in nearly 19,000 public schools. Our program supports the Philippine Government’s efforts to deliver quality basic education as a pathway for stronger economic development.

The K to 12 reforms supported by BEST will also play a role in influencing changes in tertiary curricula that will allow Philippine universities to be internationally competitive in attracting students from Australia under the New Colombo Plan.

The New Colombo Plan is a signature initiative of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. It aims to foster closer ties with the region and develop stronger people-to-people linkages by supporting young Australians’ study and internship undertakings in our region. 

Under the original Colombo Plan, from the 1950s, students from South and Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, studied at Australian universities.

Our man of the hour, Renato, is in fact a Colombo Plan Scholar, who studied in Australia. People like him now serve as life-long ambassadors, strengthening cultural, institutional and people-to-people links between Australia and the Philippines. This book is a testament to that.

The Australian Government is focused on building on the success of our decades-long exchange, not only by providing study opportunities at Australian universities, but also by encouraging greater Asia literacy among Australian students.

I wish to thank the National Historical Commission of the Philippines for hosting this book launch.

My warm congratulations to Renato Perdon on today’s launch, and for the much deserved book award. I wish you every success.

Finally, my thanks to the orchestra, the NCCA Rondalla, for setting the scene so well for today’s event.

Thank you, a Merry Christmas, and a safe and happy New Year to you all, and mabuhay!