FIONA SCOTT TO THE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Will the Minister update the House on how the government’s New Colombo Plan is helping young Australian students to live, study and work in the Indo-Pacific region?

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin—Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:45): I thank the member for Lindsay for her question. The New Colombo Plan is one of the government's signature foreign policy initiatives, and we are rolling it out across the Indian Ocean-Asia-Pacific region. We are now partnering with 38 nations in our region to provide young Australian undergraduates with the opportunity to study and live and work at locations in our region. I do not think members of the House should underestimate the impact that this signature policy is having in the region. Members will recall that President Xi Jinping referred to the New Colombo Plan and how China was ready to partner with Australia during his address to the joint sitting of the parliament last year. Indeed, Prime Minister Abe has also raised the New Colombo Plan as a great example of the strengthening and deepening of the relationship between Australia and Japan. I have attended regional forums of ASEAN where the New Colombo Plan has been raised as a great example of the connectivity that is required in our region, building government-to-government links, people to people, university to university, business to business.

We have now announced this year's 69 12-month scholarships for students to study in the region and 3,150 mobility grants up to a semester long. So we have now announced that, in total, 4,600 students will have the opportunity to live, study and work under the New Colombo Plan in our region. Last Thursday, the member for Lindsay and I attended a number of events in her electorate, including at the University of Western Sydney. The university has received grants and scholarships for 188 students from that university to study in one of the 38 partner countries in our region. Six 12-month scholarships have been awarded and the rest in mobility and semester-long grants.

One student, a young lady by the name of Jasmin Hammond, has come back from her New Colombo Plan experience from last year. She is the first Indigenous Australian to receive a scholarship under the New Colombo Plan. While she was studying at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology—she was studying chemistry and physics, and her period there will be counted towards her degree in Australia—she decided that she wanted to study medicine. The experience in Hong Kong was such that she decided to transform her life and to try and get into medicine, and she has been accepted by the University of Western Sydney into medicine. She grew up back of Bourke, in a country town of about 1,500 people. She is now going to study medicine at the University of Western Sydney, because she wants to give back to her local community. This is the kind of transformational experience that young students are receiving under the New Colombo Plan. We are investing in our future. We invest our young people.

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