It is an absolute delight to be here tonight for the second Australia Awards Hadi Soesastro Prize ceremony.

In talking about Australia’s relationship with Indonesia, I frequently stress the importance of our people-to-people ties. Political relationships can wax and wane, economic circumstances can ebb and flow but what keeps our two countries deeply engaged are the personal connections between our people. And personal links are how we build trust and mutual understanding – precious commodities that underpin all good relationships.

Professor Hadi Soesastro was instrumental in strengthening people-to-people links between Australia and Indonesia. He was a giant in the field of economics, an enthusiastic representative of Indonesia and a great friend of Australia. His name and reputation is greatly admired in both our countries. His life-long, enduring connections and real affection for Australia offer a terrific example of the links that can be built between our two countries.

So tonight, I am very pleased that you Albert are able to join us as we honour your father’s legacy and we award the Hadi Soesastro Prize to two young people who are making an enormous contribution in their fields and to the broader Australia-Indonesia relationship.

Let me just say a few words about that relationship. We enjoy a highly productive and diverse partnership that straddles business, politics, defence, security, culture and education.We are important regional partners. We work together to drive prosperity and stability in the Indo-Pacific and are active participants in the G20, East Asia Summit, APEC, and the Indian Ocean Rim Association.  I look forward to visiting Padang this Friday for the 2015 IORA Ministerial meeting when Indonesia – my friend Ibu Retno – takes over the chairmanship from Australia of the Indian Ocean Rim Association.

While Indonesia is Australia’s 12th largest trading partner, there is huge potential for our trading relationship to be enhanced in the years ahead, particularly as Indonesia’s economy continues to strengthen. In November, the Minister for Trade and Investment, Andrew Robb, will lead a delegation of around 200 Australian business representatives to the inaugural Indonesia Australia Business Week. 

We have signed a Free Trade Agreement together – the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA – and we are negotiating two more: the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership known as RCEP and a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement that will drive further economic integration between our economies. Through these and other means, Australia and Indonesia are determined to strengthen our relationship to ensure we build a prosperous future together.

Just in terms of education connections. Since the original Colombo Plan of the 1950s, Australia has been investing in emerging leaders from Indonesia and elsewhere in our region to study in Australia and return home to make a significant contribution to the development of their country.

Today, the New Colombo Plan which we introduced on coming into office in 2013 is providing Australian undergraduate students to opportunity to undertake study, internships and mentorships in Indonesia and other countries in our region.

In fact, education is an area of foreign policy about which I care about deeply and the New Colombo Plan is a foreign policy initiative of which I am particularly proud. And I am delighted that Indonesia agreed to be one of the original pilot destinations for the New Colombo Plan and today is one of the most popular destinations for Australian students under this overseas study program.

In the first three years of the program, the New Colombo Plan is already supporting some 2000 Australian undergraduates to undertake programs in Indonesia. They are undertaking study in a diverse range of disciplines, including business, science, law, health, education and the arts. They are learning Bahasa and Australia likewise has long been a popular destination for Indonesian students.

In 2014, we confirmed almost 14,000 Indonesians chose to study at one of Australia’s world class academic institutions. Through the Australia Awards, around 1000 Indonesian students are currently in Australia undertaking study, research and professional development sponsored by the Australian Government.

Of course, the Australia Awards also give students from Indonesia and elsewhere the opportunity to gain a greater knowledge and understanding of Australia, living for a time in our unique country and experiencing the warmth of our multi-cultural society and going home with new perspectives and insights of Australia. I think this is a life-changing experience for Indonesians, who gain not only new skills but a deeper understanding and appreciation of our nation.

Tonight, we acknowledge the work of two smart, young Indonesians who have achieved great things in their chosen fields. Here are two Indonesian citizens who have left home to further their education and develop their knowledge – they are also wonderful ambassadors for their country. Their families – who are present here tonight – must be very proud and have every reason to be so.

Wenny Sunarharum is undertaking doctoral studies at the University of Queensland’s ‘Alliance for Agricultural and Food Innovation’, with a focus on the coffee industry. Indonesia is one of the world’s largest coffee producers and exporters. Ibu Wenny’s studies in the field of sensory and flavour science will help Indonesia to increase the value of, and market for, its coffee.

Rumayya is studying the dynamic between politics and economics in decentralised Indonesia at the University of Western Australia – which by the way is in my electorate of Curtin. Indonesia’s decentralisation policy has changed the landscape of regional development in Indonesia and is an important field of study for him. Rumayya’s studies into the relationship between economic development and politics will no doubt improve understanding of governance at the district level.

I wish Rumayya and Wenny well as they pursue their studies and I hope they also take the opportunity while here to travel within Australia and make the friends and connections that will last a lifetime.

In the years ahead, Australia and Indonesia will continue to cooperate closely on education because the free flow of people and ideas between our two countries is a fundamental – an incredibly important part of our relationship.

The Australia Awards provide opportunities for Indonesia’s top students to study at our leading tertiary institutions and build enduring relationships not only with their fellow students but with their teachers and peers. This, along with our other initiatives such as the New Colombo Plan, will help establish professional networks between Australia and Indonesia which will strengthen this already strong bilateral relationship into the future.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is with absolute pleasure and delight that I congratulate our recipients of the 2015 Australia Awards Hadi Soesastro Prize. My deepest congratulation to you both.

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