I am delighted to acknowledge the presence here today of the representative of President Widodo, State Secretary Pratikno – thank you for being here – and the Chair of the DPD [Irman Gusman], thank you Sir for your presence today, and we are delighted to have former President Habibie here. Now I understand that we must be located in the right area because President Habibie is in fact a neighbour – a very, very special neighbourhood. Also the ASEAN Chair for Indonesia, Ambassador Latsamy. The Australian Ambassador to Indonesian Paul Grigson, and our ASEAN Ambassador Simon Merrifield. Our very distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
On this extremely important occasion it was appropriate that we should acknowledge the tradition and the heritage of the Aboriginal smoking ceremony so beautifully performed by Shirley Drill.
It is fitting that there should be such a ceremony because the earliest ties between our two countries can be dated back centuries, but particularly the early Makassan traders from Indonesia connected with the Indigenous people, the Aboriginal people of northern Australia. In fact this theatre here today is perforated by images of the Bungle Bungle Range in my home state of Western Australia, and these ancient ranges are called the Purnululu by the Gija people, the traditional owners, and Aunty Shirley’s people. So we are delighted that you made the trip here all the way from East Kimberley to be with us today, thank you Aunty Shirley.
Ladies and gentlemen, this complex will house two very important institutions for Australia – the Australian Embassy in Indonesia and Australia’s mission for ASEAN in the region.
The building itself is significant. It represents contemporary Australia in design – the art, the technology – is representative of the very best of Australia, the creativity of our people.
We’ve embraced green technology at every turn whether it is from the green grass on the roof that provides an environmental buffer, to the energy-efficient lighting, the rain water storage and collection, the solar heating, the water-efficient fittings and the recycling. This is very much a 21st-century building.
But it also reflects Australia’s history in that the architecture has embraced the minerals and resources upon which Australia’s modern economy has been built. So the cladding with copper and zinc, and brass and steel and aluminium, tells a story about Australia’s growth as a nation.
The landscaping is quite beautiful but it has ensured that we have maintained four great Banyan trees in the gardens, and the four hectares in which this complex is located makes this the largest embassy that Australia has anywhere in the world.
That is fitting because we are the closest of neighbours and we have one of the strongest of relationships. So this building symbolises the importance of our economic, strategic, people-to-people relationship. Indeed, it was built as a joint project between an Australian company and an Indonesian company and just shows what magnificent structures – what amazing things we can achieve – when you work in partnership work so closely together.
The opening of this significant Embassy in Indonesia comes at a time when our relationship has never been closer, never been stronger. It is at a very high point. I was delighted last week when the Indonesian Trade Minister was in Canberra and our respective trade minsters announced the reinvigoration of our free trade agreement negotiations – the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations, for this will mean enormous opportunities for greater business, investment and trading ties in goods and services between our two nations.
We have a long history of educational exchanges and I see this as absolutely vital to the durability of this connection. There are about 17,000 Indonesian students currently studying in Australia, and under the Australian Government’s recent education initiative, the New Colombo Plan, within just three years we will have had 2,000 Australian students studying in and undertaking work experience here in Indonesia.
Our people-to-people links are so strong, about a million Australian tourists visited Indonesia last year and we’re encouraging more Indonesians to visit Australia.
The cultural ties are also very strong and there is enormous interest and curiosity about Indonesia in Australia. I’m not sure that everybody here would appreciate this but the largest collection of Indonesian textiles housed by any museum in the world is the National Gallery in Australia. We have the largest collection – I would say the largest – somebody might challenge that, but I’m sure it’s the largest collection of Indonesian textiles anywhere in the world. Our National Library houses one of the largest collections of Indonesian literature, newspapers, Indonesian political material, of any equivalent institution anywhere in the world.
So there is such a deep connection between our two countries. And as we cooperate across a range of issues that face us as individual nations, that face us as a region, in fact some of the challenges that face us globally, we know that when Australia and Indonesia collaborate, cooperate and work together, we will find a solution to some of these challenges.
So, ladies and gentlemen, it is my absolute pleasure and honour to declare open Australia’s Embassy to Indonesia, Australia’s Mission in ASEAN. Long may this very special relationship endure.
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