This is the second group of youth ambassadors I have farewelled and I am thrilled to again have this honour.
Last time, back in March, I was completely taken by the energy and excitement in this room.
There was a real buzz among the youth ambassadors and, I must say, it was contagious.
There is that same feeling here again tonight and I am excited for you.
Each of you is about to embark on a unique and life-enriching experience.
Many youth ambassadors come back saying the experience has changed their entire world view.
Others continue associations they have made in the host countries for the rest of their lives.
It is also quite common to see youth ambassadors return to the country they were in, at some later stage of their life in another capacity.
And that is a great outcome.
One of the major aims of volunteering is to create deep and long-standing links between people and countries.
Each of you has a rare opportunity to live a local life.
You will live in ordinary communities and work closely with local people.
You will get to know them and come to understand their way of living in a way many of us don't.
It won't always be easy but it will be incredibly rewarding.
One of the differences between your assignments and people who simply travel to the same countries is that you have a clear purpose.
Yours is to pass on skills and knowledge to help build capacity in developing countries.
Lack of capacity is a huge constraint to development.
Even if countries are determined to raise basic living standards they don't always have enough people with the skills or expertise to make the necessary reforms.
That’s where volunteers like you can make a difference.
You are on the front-line, helping identify gaps in knowledge and resources and you are doing something about it.
You know we had a youth ambassador go to Kiribati to help with the management and procurement of medicines.
He ended up working out a new system of distribution and purchasing that is saving the country $1 million a year.
This is money that can be used for other priorities.
And there'd be many, many similar stories to tell since the program began back in 1998.
Your group can claim a first though.
You are the first group of volunteers to be sent overseas under the banner of the new volunteer program, Australian Volunteers for International Development.
The program was launched by the Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd last month.
It brings together all three sending agencies – Austraining International, Australian Volunteers International and the Australian Red Cross.
One of the benefits of the change will be to give the volunteering program greater visibility, which is important because of the continual expansion of the aid program.
I am looking forward to seeing some of you when I visit your countries as Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs.
I have seen the work done by other youth ambassadors already in Pacific island countries and I am proud of their contribution.
The Pacific is a terrific region.
The people are welcoming and warm.
And there is a real hunger for learning and extending horizons among young people.
Australia is working closely with the governments and with organisations in the Pacific and other parts of the world to help meet people’s aspirations, especially the fields covered by the Millennium Development Goals.
We must not forget that the fortunes of Australia are linked to those of our Pacific partners.
Indeed, Australia’s geography gives us a reason to engage closely with many countries in the Pacific, in Asia, and in the Indian Ocean region.
And working on assignments in our near neighbour Indonesia.
Indonesia is a big supporter of the youth ambassador program and I thank His Excellency Mr Primo Joelianto, for that.
I also thank the other countries that are represented here tonight and of course the partner sending organisations.
We thank you for the warm welcome that the youth ambassadors receive from your Government and your people.
I am pleased that so many organisations continue to be associated with the program and I welcome the new ones that have just come on board.
You will not be disappointed with the program.
To the youth ambassadors – this is your night.
I wish you a great time overseas.
Listen, learn, share and enjoy.
You will make a difference to the lives of others – perhaps in ways you would never have anticipated.
I ask just one thing of you.
When you come home, please share you experiences – with me, with your family, your friends, colleagues and your communities.
Let us know the difference you have made.
Let your stories be our stories because they will enrich our nation as you will enrich the nations you visit, and the experience will enrich each of your lives.
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