ALEX HAWKE: Well, firstly, thank you to your Principal Gary and all of you for being here today. I'd like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land and thank you, Lara, for that Welcome to Country. But also, the very special occasion that we have here today, when you think about it, it is not often that you get a world leader of the renown of Prime Minister Marape, and importance to our country, to visit your school and to come and see you. And so, it's a good time for all of you students and all of us here, staff, to reflect on the fact that this visit by Prime Minister Marape is [indistinct], the delegation from the governors and ministers is their first official state visit of any country in the world and they've come to Australia and they've come here to your high school.

Now, why is that? It's because the Australian Government and the Government of Papua New Guinea have a very long-standing and close relationship. So, on behalf of the Prime Minster and on behalf of the Government, on behalf of Australia, we want to say welcome Prime Minister, welcome to your ministers. Minister Bryan Kramer is here. Welcome to your governors and thank you for coming here. Thank you for coming out to the northwest of Sydney. I'm here today with my friend and colleague, Julian Leeser, who's the local member by about, you know, a few hundred metres.

[Laughter]

But this is also my part of the world as well in Sydney. We're so proud as federal members to welcome you today here to our home electorates as well. So thank you for visiting.

It's a real privilege I think to be here today in the shadow of what has been a real important meeting between our two governments and the continued partnership that we have. I think hearing a little bit from your principal about the students that have walked Kokoda…did you have a good time walking Kokoda? You learnt something about Australia and Papua New Guinea and our shared history? It's part of the great tradition that we have between our two countries, our shared history, our shared adversity of war. And when I had my own chance to walk on Kokoda, I actually had the chance to visit Sogeri High School and I've been there, so I have some contextual understanding of the relationship that we built between these two schools.

Our shared war history is so important to our country because it was the people of Papua New Guinea who literally saved Australia from invasion. It was the people of Papua New Guinea who carried our diggers on their shoulders across those ranges and saved their lives and it was Papua New Guinea and their people of course that meant that we were able to remain secure. And we're forever grateful to you, your country, your people and we remain in your debt and we will remain in your debt forever, and it's something we feel very deeply, Prime Minister.

At the heart of our relationship, of course, in a future sense, will be a knowledge and sharing exchange and there's no better way to do that than education. We have our Director of Education here today in New South Wales and I want to commend him and the state school system here in New South Wales because building those partnerships on education on our shared history is an important priority of the Morrison Government. We want it taught in our schools. We want all of our students to understand what went on between our nations, not just in our military history but the cultural history of Australia and Papua New Guinea, the shared future that we have together and the importance of our region to every one of us.

So, we're all very lucky to be here today at the start of what is going to be, I think, an important government program from our perspective, an important government program to Papua New Guinea. We will have 12 high schools, of course, participating over this period in this important program and I think the knowledge sharing and exchange and the cultural exchange that will go on will be something that all of us will remember and you will remember as students your whole lives.

I do want to acknowledge of course the principal here of Sogeri High School, and say thank you so much for visiting us as well. I think Sogeri National High School, having been there, it's got a really deep historical connection to Australia that I'll mention briefly because I think if you don't know it, it's worth understanding and of course, it is so important to us. The school was founded in 1944 by Australian soldiers. During the Kokoda campaign the Sogeri area was a large base and I think those that have come back may understand this, but many of us do not here. And I'm pleased to learn that this biannual program from your principal will mean a trek, which will mean more Australians can meet more people in Papua New Guinea and share and relive and continue the understanding between our two countries of what happened and what we did together.

So, today, I'm here on behalf of the Government to say thank you to everyone involved in this program and thank you indeed to the schools. Thank you to the Prime Minister. Thank you to the delegation for the way you've approached our new and ongoing relationship. We've announced, and Prime Minister Marape and Prime Minister Morrison announced, that we'll be lifting our own relationship to a comprehensive strategic and economic partnership, which is a really important juncture for our two nations to be at. And so, that presents an opportunity now to take our shared culture, our shared history, the depth of our educational links and the links that you're going to, well, build between the schools that you have here in Cherrybrook and Sogeri and take us into a shared future together.

So, we're very proud of everybody here and what you're doing. We're very proud of course at the relationship that we have and we look forward to our shared future and destiny together. So thank you for being here today on this very special occasion, Prime Minister Marape.

Media enquiries

  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555