FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: Professor, thank you for your warm introduction and I am delighted to be here at Keio University for the Study Abroad Fair, and I look forward to convincing you all that when you choose a destination for your overseas study, that destination will be Australia.

As Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, it is my responsibility to manage our relationships with other countries. Indeed, I call myself Australia’s relationship manager. In the case of the relationship between Australia and Japan, my job is very easy because we already have a strong and enduring friendship over many decades.

Our two countries share many common interests and values. Indeed, we are both democracies, we embrace the rule of law, we embrace freedom, we believe in open and free trade and, together, we believe that Australia and Japan can enhance the peace, stability and security of our region.

While our economic, investment, defence and security relationships are strong, we should never take it for granted and I can think of no better way for the Australia – Japan relationship to flourish and endure, than to invest in our young people, and to give our young people the opportunity to live and study in our respective countries.

As a former Education and Science Minister, and now the Foreign Minister, I can assure you that if you choose to come to Australia to study in one of our universities, you will receive a high quality education. Not only will it be a high quality education experience, but it will also provide you with an opportunity to gain skills and qualifications that will assist you in whatever career you may choose after you graduate from university.

Australia also offers a very secure environment and you will be safe if you come to Australia. And we can also guarantee that your experience on campus will be diverse in the sense that not only will you be mixing with Australians, but one in five students on the campuses at Australian universities are international students.

Australia is a large country – we occupy an entire continent – so there is a great deal of choice when it comes to identifying a part of Australia in which to visit or study. We have huge diversity amongst or cities, our flora, our fauna – koalas, kangaroos, wombats to name a few – and you will enjoy the experience of being in Australia.

Because I believe so passionately in the benefits of student exchange, the Australian Government has established what we call the ‘New Colombo Plan’, which is providing scholarships for Australian students to study at universities in our region. This year, Australian students under the new Colombo Plan have had an opportunity to study at universities in Japan and I want to ensure that more Australian students come here to study in Japan – learn the language, understand the culture, the people, the politics – and then come back to Australia with new perspectives, insights and ideas about the Australia – Japan relationship.

One of the exciting things about studying overseas is the friendships that you make, the connections, the networks that you make, and hopefully these friendships will last a lifetime. I studied law at Adelaide University in South Australia and my only regret is that I didn’t take the opportunity as an under-graduate to study overseas. It was not until I had practised law for many years and I was in my forties, that I had the opportunity to study overseas, and it was a life changing experience.

In fact, it was while I was studying overseas that I decided to leave a fifteen year legal career and enter politics. It was as a result of my time spent studying overseas that I came to the realisation that I should be doing something different with my life. So it can truly be transformative.

So please, consider Australia as a destination for your studies. I hope you do have an opportunity to study overseas and if you choose Australia, we will welcome you, we will provide you with an excellent education experience, a safe and secure environment, and you will enjoy every minute of it.

So, I wish you all the best in your studies and I wish you the very best for life’s journey, wherever it may take you.

MODERATOR: Thank you Minister Bishop for sharing so much valuable information with some of our students. Time is limited but I would like to open up the floor for questions from our students.

QUESTION: How long should I stay abroad to change my life?

FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: Well it would depend very much on the circumstances – who you meet, the country you go to, and the course you undertake. And it depends why you want to go overseas, why it is that you want to study overseas. If it is to gain qualifications then the longer you are away the better. If it is to have a good time, well, you can do that in a week. But if it is to build friendships, then I also think that at least a semester is required. But not everybody’s circumstances allow that. In our New Colombo Plan, what we are doing is offering students the opportunity to go for a short course – say a month; longer courses – a semester or two semester; and also twelve month fellowships. So it depends on your circumstances and why you are going overseas.

But I think the point is, however long you spend overseas, it will open your eyes to new opportunities and it will not be the last time that you travel outside Japan. I can assure you, if you have been overseas before you want to see more. So even a short time will give you the appetite for wanting to open your mind to new ideas, new cultures and new understandings.

QUESTION: Thank you for coming to Keio University today. I just want to ask you a simple question. What are the characteristics of Japanese students studying in Australia?

FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: Many students come for language, for English language classes, but we certainly look to broaden the opportunities for Japanese students to study not only language but to study economics, law, history, politics. The Australian students under the New Colombo Plan that are coming to Japan are in a variety of areas, but language has been an important driver of their interest. They want to learn Japanese, they want to be able to engage with Japanese people through language. So whilst the courses would depend upon the specific student’s interests, I think language has been the pillar of student exchange between our two countries.

But of course students studying economics with English skills are very welcome.

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