ASEAN Scholars Leadership Program Launch

  • Speech, check against delivery

I start by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, and pay my respect to Elders, past and present.

I also like to acknowledge any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here with us today.

And I reaffirm the Albanese Labor Government’s commitment to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart – Voice, Treaty and Truth.

I acknowledge Your Excellencies, ASEAN Ambassadors and High Commissioners, members of the diplomatic corps, and DFAT staff.

I also wish Singapore a happy national day.

Welcome to our Australia for ASEAN Scholars and to our Australia Awards scholars from Timor-Leste.

Congratulations to all of you for being selected for an Australian scholarship.

It is an indication of your talent and hard work.

A scholarship can be a life-changing opportunity.

While a scholarship can change the course of your life, Australian scholarships aim to have a larger impact than just on the recipients.

Scholarships can have a positive impact on the Indo-Pacific.

They provide opportunities to build relationships between people.

Relationships which can be drawn upon as countries in our region work together to respond the most pressing challenges of our times.

Challenges that affect us all, like climate change, strategic competition, or a future pandemic.

Scholarships foster understanding and tolerance between cultures.

So that when look across our borders we do not see strangers, but we see neighbours, friends, and family.

These relationships, and this understanding, will be crucial to address the challenges our region faces.

At an address to the National Press Club in July, Australia’s Minister for Education, Jason Clare, spoke passionately about the power of education.

That education is the “most powerful cause for good”.

Everyone here has an opportunity to be a powerful cause for good.

Students who are seeking to be an agent for good for our region, to tackle our most pressing challenges.

I am proud that Australia’s higher education sector is playing its part.

Scholarships have been a key feature of Australia’s international engagement since the 1950s.

More than 100,000 alumni have received an Australian Government scholarship to study in Australia.

We currently have close to 2,000 scholars in Australia studying under our scholarship programs.

Our new Australia for ASEAN Scholars are joining an esteemed community of alumni.

Alumni like Laos Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith, who studied at Monash University in the late 1990’s.

Or Minister Pratikno, Head of the State Secretariat of Indonesia, who earned his PhD in Political Science from Flinders University in 1997.

Or the General Secretary of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ms Tran Thi Lan Anh, who completed her Master of Development at UQ in 2008.

For more than seven decades Australian Government scholarships have facilitated talent individuals from across our region to receive a world-class education.

To build those important relationships and understanding in Australia, and to bring their experiences back to their home countries.  

This facilitates new and deeper connections between our countries.

And ultimately strengthens ties within our region.

The Australia for ASEAN scholarships, and this leadership program, is only a small part of our effort to deepen engagement with Southeast Asia.

Australia’s new International Development Policy, launched yesterday by the Foreign Minister and Minister for International Development and the Pacific highlights that Australia sees ASEAN as the centre of a stable, peaceful and prosperous region.

Since becoming ASEAN’s first Dialogue Partner in 1974, the Australia-ASEAN relationship has continued to go from strength to strength.

In 2021, Australia and ASEAN established a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, which formalised the wide range of practical cooperation we share.

To mark this occasion, Australia announced the Australia for ASEAN Package, which included

  • the Australia for ASEAN Futures Initiative
  • the Australia for ASEAN Digital Transformation and Future Skills Initiative
  • and of course, the Australia for ASEAN Scholarships.

Having you all here in this room demonstrates in a real way the practical closeness our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

Australia’s Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040, to be released later this year, will identify even more opportunities to build our shared economic future, including through education.

We look forward to welcoming ASEAN Leaders to Australia in March 2024 for the Special Summit to Commemorate our 50th Anniversary of this enduring partnership. 

We will continue to strongly support ASEAN’s vital role in the peace and stability of our region.

Because ASEAN’s success is our success.

Today is about the people gathered in this room.

You are all studying in fields that support practical implementation of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific with its aim of promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

You are among the very best scholars from over 36,000 applicants who applied for a scholarship during your intake.

And there are nine scholars here today from Monash University, the University where I studied a Masters in Public Policy and Management. 

We are here tonight to officially launch the ASEAN Scholars Leadership Program.

An expansion of the Australia for ASEAN Scholarship to add on a 10-month leadership, networking and mentoring program…

…with the aim to further enrich the experiences of the ASEAN Scholarship.

The program will help you strengthen your skills and networks, which will be vital when you take up to leadership positions back in your home countries.

And, hopefully, this Leadership Program helps you to develop enduring connections with Australia and Australians. 

I am so pleased that our Australia Awards scholars from Timor-Leste were also able to join this program. Australia strongly supports Timor-Leste joining ASEAN.

This program will help you all build skills, networks and capabilities to take on leadership roles within your workplaces, communities and countries.

Australia is proud to host you because you are the future of our region.

Because these scholarship programs and education opportunities create lasting relationships between peoples and countries across Southeast Asia.

I would like to highlight a few examples from this group.

Dinda Maharani – I understand you are studying a Masters of Economics at the ANU, and you’ve told us that you hope to apply your studies to contribute to economic policy making in Indonesia.

Supported by your peers, I know you will make positive change as you grow as a leader.

John Lester Mendoza – I believe you are studying a Masters of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at UQ because you want to improve the lives of farmers in the Philippines by advancing sustainability and food security in the agriculture sector.

I hope you continue to connect with Australia’s agricultural networks throughout your career.

Lounglavanh Vongxay – you are studying a Masters of International Trade and Development at the University of Adelaide to further your negotiation and analysis skills to promote a better business environment in Laos.

I hope you enjoy your studies and build networks that transcend boundaries.

We hope all our Australia for ASEAN Scholars go on to implement changes that make headlines.

Whatever you may go on to do, you have started your journey in joining an esteemed group of alumni who are current and future leaders, influencers and change makers.

Through the ASEAN Scholars Leadership Program, you will further develop your skills, so that you may contribute to your communities, countries and our region.

And so, I challenge you to ask yourself.

What will you go on to achieve?

Thank you for having me here today.

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