Australia Awards Hadi Soesastro Prize event

Australian Parliament House

Speech, E&OE, proof only

24 February 2014

I'm delighted to see so many people this afternoon for the Hadi Soesastro Prize award event and in particular I'd like to acknowledge Albert (Soesastro). Thank you so much for being here to represent your family and the late Hadi Soesastro. We are delighted you could be here and thank you for your kind words.

I also acknowledge my Parliamentary Secretary, Senator Brett Mason, Deputy Leader of the Opposition Tanya Plibersek, Professor Hill, Secretary Richardson, distinguished guests.

There are two priorities that are very dear to me in this portfolio. The first relates to strengthening our relations with Indonesia. The second relates to building bridges in our region through educational means. And the presence here of so many of our Indonesian friends is testament to the fact that we have a strong relationship with Indonesia and that it must continue to grow. It must continue to be enhanced. We are friends; we are neighbours. It is also a fact that many Indonesian students are studying in Australia. About 17,400 students from Indonesia are enrolled in Australian universities and institutes this year. We welcome the Indonesian students and want to see more. There have also been about 3,700 scholarships for Indonesian students to study in Australia, sponsored by the Australian government. Again, we welcome those students and we commend them on their commitment to studying in Australia, and we want to enhance those links.

My passion in terms of foreign policy initiatives is the New Colombo Plan, and many in this room will have heard me speak about this plan. Just as the original Colombo Plan that existed between the 1950s and the 1980s saw about 40,000 young people from the region come to Australia to study in our universities, and get to know Australia through that experience; so we want the New Colombo Plan to provide an opportunity for young Australians to travel in our region, study at universities in our region, live with families, make friends, work in the businesses and organisations that are part of our New Colombo Plan, and through that experience come back to Australia with new perspectives, new ideas, new insights, friends, networks and connections that we hope will last a lifetime.

I cannot think of a better way to spend the public diplomacy dollar than the funding that we're putting into the New Colombo Plan. In order to get it right, to make sure we were able to role the plan out across the Asia-Pacific region from universities across Australia, we set up a pilot scheme that is in place this year, 2014. We announced it last December, and we selected four locations for the pilot program for the New Colombo Plan – Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong and Indonesia. And I'm delighted to confirm that the first tranche of students who will be going overseas this year, this April, the first 300, have been announced and a number of those students will be travelling to Indonesia to live and study. After we've completed the pilot program this year we hope to role the New Colombo Plan out across the region. In this way we will truly and deeply engage over generations in our region.

Today we are celebrating an example of the links that can be built across two countries. Hadi Soesastro epitomised the type of relationship that we want to build upon with Indonesia. He was a deep thinker, he was an influential leader, and as Professor Hill indicated, he was a great friend of Australia. He set up the CSIS (Centre for Strategic and International Studies) in Indonesia, he was an adjunct professor at ANU and he had deep, enduring and lasting connections with our country.

It is fitting that we should award the Hadi Soesastro prize to brilliant young Indonesians who are undertaking studies here in Australia. This is under our Australia Awards program and I'm delighted that the first of our two recipients is Bimo Wijayanto, who is studying at the University of Canberra. He is doing post doctorate work on tax and economic reform, an area of great interest to both countries, but which specifically will be of great value to his home of Indonesia.

The second recipient is Diana Setiyawati. Diana is about to have a baby and so she is currently in hospital or on her way to hospital. We will forgive her for not being here, but I understand Associate Professor Harry Minas will accept the award on her behalf. Diana is studying at the University of Melbourne, doing post doctorate work in psychology, particularly with a focus on primary health care.

Here are two examples of very smart, very bright, very innovative young Indonesians who are taking the opportunity to study in Australia to enhance their knowledge, to enhance their understanding of not only their specific subject matter, but of the relationship between our two countries. I hope that Bimo and Diana make friends and connections here that will last throughout their lives. It is our determination that more young people have the opportunity to spend productive time in each country.

So it is with absolute delight and pleasure that I invite Bimo, and Professor Minas on behalf of Diana, and Albert, to present these awards to two exceedingly deserving young Indonesians. Long may their connection with Australia endure.

Photo gallery: Australia Awards Hadi Soesastro Prize, February 2014

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