Speech by Ambassador Steven J. Robinson AO
Australia Day 2019 Reception, 24 January 2019
Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen and thank you for joining us for Australia Day. I’d like to begin by acknowledging senior guests present tonight.
- Hon Delfin Lorenzana, Secretary, Department of National Defense
- Hon Benjamin Diokno, Secretary, Department of Budget and Management
- Hon Antonio Carpio, Senior Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the Philippines
- Hon Chito Gascon, Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
- Gen Benjamin Madrigal Jr, Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines
- Hon Meynardo Montealegre, Assistant Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs
- His Excellency Most Reverend Archbishop Gabrielle Giordano Caccia, Dean of the Diplomatic Affairs
This is my first Australia Day in the Philippines. As you may be aware, my wife, Rhonda, and I, arrived here just two weeks ago tonight.
We have been humbled by the warm and heartfelt welcome that we have received from everyone we have met.
As I now settle into Manila, my new home, and also come to celebrate Australia’s National Day, I have been reflecting on Australia’s story, the relationship between the Philippines and Australia, and my own personal history here.
The continent we now call Australia is a very old land and I would like to acknowledge the rich culture and heritage of the first Australians, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who have inhabited the country for over 50,000 years.
Today, as we celebrate our National Day, we also recognise the extraordinary blend of peoples from all over the world who make up our multicultural nation and the people we have become.
We celebrate the history that has made us who we are, the country that we love, and the values and institutions that underpin it.
Although this will be the first time I have lived in the Philippines on a long-term basis, I have been coming to this beautiful country since I was a university student.
Nearly 40 years ago I first visited the Philippines. At that time I was struck by the archipelago’s natural beauty, I experienced the warmth of the Filipino people and felt the dynamic energy of the cities of Manila, Cebu and Zamboanga.
It seized my attention and I have returned many times over the intervening years.
So it is a great honour and a privilege to return here now as Australia’s new Ambassador to the Philippines.
My positive early impressions as Ambassador reinforce many of the positive experiences of my student years - some things don’t change.
However, one thing that has developed and matured over time is the strength of the relationship between our countries. As we head towards 75 years of formal diplomatic ties (which we will mark in 2021), Australia and the Philippines share a relationship which is both broad and deep.
Our formal bilateral relationship is made up of partnerships in defence, security, law enforcement, trade, business, education, development assistance and disaster preparedness.
This collaboration is captured in a Comprehensive Partnership Joint Declaration which was signed by the Australian Prime Minister and the President of the Philippines in November 2015.
Over my term here, I hope to continue to strengthen this relationship, including with senior ministerial visits over the coming year.
Equally important is the friendship and people to people links between our countries. Over 250,000 Filipinos now live in Australia, the fifth highest of any grouping, many of them dual nationals, and they enrich both of our countries in many ways.
Some of them, like Ms Ylona Garcia, whom I would like to thank for her outstanding rendition of the national anthems, move back and forth between our two countries, and both countries proudly claim them as their own. Though, in Ylona’s instance, this claim is less controversial than the Australian media’s recent claim over the current Ms Universe.
These people to people links are growing quickly. Australia is now the top destination for tertiary students from the Philippines who choose to study abroad.
And likewise, many Australian students are coming to the Philippines each year, some of whom are here tonight, under Australia’s New Colombo Plan.
Our trade relationship is also growing quickly. Filipino companies are increasingly investing in Australia, creating benefits for Australian communities.
Likewise, there are many Australian companies, many of them represented here this evening, investing and doing business in the Philippines. They are contributing economic and social benefits to both countries through employment, innovation, technology, infrastructure, competition and community support.
With all of these deep and broad connections across almost every facet of society, there can be no better time to be Australia’s Ambassador to the Philippines.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is now my honour to now to invite you to raise your glasses in a toast:
· To his Excellency President Rodrigo Roa Duterte
· To the Health and Prosperity of the Filipino people
· And to the enduring friendship between Australia and the Philippines
Happy Australia Day!