Well, first of all can I start by acknowledging all our returned volunteers, our Australia Awardees and our New Colombo Plan students here this evening and also our staff from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Office here in Darwin.
Our volunteers and New Colombo Plan students are, to many people in our region, the public face of Australia, and ambassadors for our country.
Likewise, Australia Awardees are viewed as ambassadors from their respective countries whilst they are here in Australia.
Australian volunteers contribute to sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction and advance Australia’s reputation and relationships in our partner countries.
Volunteers also extend the reach of our aid program, living and working in communities in developing countries where they learn about other cultures and also teach their colleagues and friends about Australia.
And one of the things I do as I travel and I travel a lot in the the Pacific area, is try and have gatherings, particularly with our volunteers because they are doing so much in those countries and it's always wonderful to hear their respective experiences, particularly as they live in those communities and see the day-to-day things that we are doing there.
We have been as a Government supporting international volunteers in developing countries since the 1960s. We have a huge alumni – around 13,000 in fact.
And in the Northern Territory there are more than 150 volunteers that have shared their expertise with their local communities in more than 30 countries over the years.
Our Australia Awards. Australia is one of the most popular study destinations in the world for international students, because of our world-class universities.
During the past half century, we have welcomed more than 2.5 million international students from across the globe to study in Australia. Now I hadn't hoisted that figure in but 2.5 million students internationally over the last 50 years is a considerable number of students!
This year we will host more than 7,000 Australia Awards scholars and fellows and currently there are 10 scholars studying here in the Northern Territory, and it's been nice to talk to some of you this evening.
Australia Awards are prestigious international scholarships, which offer a uniquely Australian experience to scholars from around the globe and not just to the scholars but to their families as well, as I have been told this evening.
Also our New Colombo Plan which we are very, very proud of. The Australian Government recognises the value of young Australians furthering their education in other countries, with a particular focus on our Indo-Pacific region.
The New Colombo Plan is intended to be transformational, deepening Australia’s relationships in the region, as well as ensuring a more regionally-aware Australian workforce for the future.
Can I particularly take the opportunity to congratulate Charles Darwin University on your success under the New Colombo Plan.
So, as alumni in various different areas can I encourage you to remain engaged with each other and with our region.
I also encourage you to play an active role in promoting the Australia Awards, the New Colombo Plan and the Australian Volunteer International Plan inspiring others to follow in your footsteps.
Your experiences are rich, are vibrant and will contribute not just to the rich fabric and tapestry of Australian society but we hope that you will take a piece of Australia back to your country.
I wish you all the very, very best for a successful future. Thank you very, very much for joining us this evening and please stay on to enjoy the hospitality. Thank you.
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