Australia has a global reputation as an open export oriented market economy, and we’ve just broken a world record – we’re entering our 27th consecutive year of economic growth. No other economy has matched that record.
We are seen as a commodities super power. We are the number one exporter of iron ore, aluminium ore, lead, coal. We are one of the largest exporters of copper, zinc, diamonds. We are the number one exporter of beef, wheat, wool, and up there with wine.
Yet our greatest natural asset, our greatest natural resource, is our people and their creativity and their innovative thinking and their spirit of entrepreneurialism, and their risk taking that is such an asset to our country. That is our selling point.
Tonight we are celebrating the Advance Global Australians, the global Aussies who are storming the world with their ideas, their skills, their productivity, their sheer brilliance, and there are a million expat Aussies overseas.
I asked the Department for a list of people I could mention this evening, the kind of Australians who are doing us proud, but the list ran to so many pages, I thought, I can’t read all these names!
But just think of some Aussies, like Abigail Allwood. She is a planetary scientist who is at NASA in Los Angeles, and she’s one of seven principal scientists in charge of NASA’s next mission to Mars.
Or Anthony Goldbloom at Kaggle in San Francisco, and I visited their offices, and they are using predictive modelling competitions to solve some of the most intractable challenges of our times.
Or Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar, from Atlassian, doing amazing things in software development.
In fact I established an innovationXchange, an ideas hub, within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade so that we could gather together the most creative, innovative thinkers to deal with some really challenging issues in the development space.
We have become part of these global hack-a-thons and competitions, and recently the Department of Foreign Affairs, through the innovationXchange, has partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Atlassian, and we are carrying out a global competition to find the kinds of skills, the answers to the jobs of the future.
Now we know that half the jobs that currently exist will be replaced by robotics and automation and artificial intelligence, so MIT, Atlassian and the innovationXchange have asked for ideas from around the world.
I was honoured to be able to present the winner of our Solve-a-thon with Queen Rania of Jordan who is the patron of MIT Solve-a-thon in New York recently, and the winner was another Aussie company called WeRobotics. They will be setting up a hub in the Pacific to teach young students in the Pacific about drones, robotics and automation so that they will have some skills for the jobs of the future.
Also think of our fashion industry. Laura Brown is currently the Editor-in-Chief of InStyle magazine in the United States, and she joins with so many extraordinarily talented people in our fashion ecosystem – the designers and the manufacturers and the creators and the publicists and the models – we are taking the world by storm.
Or Mark Bromilow, who is now based in Sao Paolo, and he has just been awarded Brazil’s top recognition for the Best Visual Production in film. Of course we already know about the Aussies in Hollywood – our actors and producers and directors and technicians – who have made such a huge impact in Hollywood.
Or Andrew Gauci who is the Head of Lendlease in Japan, in charge of some extraordinarily complex projects.
Then Melissa Ran, she is now working in Chengdu and she’s set up a bridge between Aussie innovators and southwest China – venture capitalists, angel investors – doing great things for the Australia-China relationship.
Or Sam Aisbett, who is a Michelin-starred restaurant owner in Singapore. His Whitegrass restaurant is one of the most popular in Singapore, and he just joins that whole cohort of Australian restaurant owners and chefs and cooks and baristas – I mean who would have thought smashed avocado would go viral!
I’m reminded of how talented Australians are every time I go overseas and our missions, and we have 112 missions around the world, invite to meet me the smart, bright, talented people who are making it in that city that I am visiting.
A couple of years ago Nick Minchin, when he was the Consul-General in New York – good to see you Nick – decided to hold a dinner for me and we invited along 20 young Australians who had made it in New York – as they say, you make it in New York, you can make it anywhere – but he asked them to bring along their American mentor or supporter or investor or employer. So we had 20 Aussies, 20 Americans, we called it BYOA which everyone thought meant “Bring Your Own Alcohol” but it was “Bring you Own American”.
It was one of the most fascinating, inspiring evenings to hear these brilliant young Australians tell the story of how they got to where they were in whatever their field was. But even better was hearing from the Americans, saying why they backed this Aussie, and there was a theme running through it all. They took risks, they worked hard, they didn’t take no for an answer, they had sheer raw talent, but they were just so much fun to have around, and they made their workplaces a joy.
That is the reputation that Australians overseas give us, the Australian nation. They build our national reputation.
They are working with and competing against some of the best in the world, and yet they never forget that Australia is home.
We are a very creative people, objectively so. The Martin Institute of Prosperity in Toronto, named Australia as the most creative nation on earth against a list of criteria.
INSEAD recently carried out a survey of 118 nations, ranking them for talent competitiveness, and Australia came in as number six, meaning we were able to attract and retain talent, and we were a place to develop global skills.
Now this is where Advance comes into the picture and the Australian Government is happy to partner with Advance and work with Advance in supporting Australians succeed overseas but also ensuring that they bring their skills and their perspectives and their insights back home, so that all Australians benefit from what they are achieving overseas.
Advance’s mission is a remarkable one: help Australians succeed overseas, help the economy and the Australian society benefit from their work.
I’m delighted to announce this evening that Arthur Sinodinos and I, through our respective Departments –the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – are investing almost $4.5 million in Advance so that they can continue their extraordinary work.
This is part of the Prime Minister’s Global Innovation Strategy, and what is exciting about tonight is not only are we recognising the achievements of our global Aussies but we are also celebrating the achievements of our global alumni, the international students who came here and gained qualifications in Australia.
Over 2.5 million international students have studied and gained a qualification in Australia. 90,000 of them have been supported by the Australian Government through the Australia Awards or the original Colombo Plan of the 1950s and the 1960s.
We have benefitted from their experience here, because they are now ambassadors for Australia in their home countries, and as you travel around the world you will meet cabinet ministers, business leaders, community leaders, heads of NGOs who gained their qualification in Australia. It’s an extraordinary network.
So last year I announced the Australian Government Global Alumni Engagement Strategy, and that brings together all the people who have studied in Australia as well as all of the Australian students who have studied overseas – a most remarkable web of people.
The work of Advance is supporting what we’re doing with our signature initiative, the New Colombo Plan, cunningly named, it’s not the old Colombo Plan, it’s the New Colombo Plan, and it works in reverse.
The Australian Government since 2014, have been supporting young Australians undergraduates to live and study and undertake work experience or a practicum or internship in one of 38 countries in the Indian Ocean-Asia Pacific region.
We are partnering with the universities, because every university is involved, we are partnering with the governments because we’ve had to change student visas in some countries, and we have 240 business partners – private sector, also public sector, government departments – who are taking young Aussies on as interns in their countries.
So from law undergraduates studying at Tokyo University and getting an internship at a top Tokyo law firm, to medical students who are working in Cambodia and studying at a university in Cambodia, to young students studying international affairs, working in Vanuatu and getting a job in the Department of Foreign Affairs in Vanuatu, we have young Australians throughout the region.
In the four years since this program began, between 2014-2018, we will have supported 30,000 young Australians under the New Colombo Plan.
They will come back to Australia with new perspectives, new insights, new ideas, new skills.
They will not only have a transformative experience, but they will add to the productivity of this country and the future of this country because they will be our ambassadors.
And that’s what Advance is all about – celebrating the sheer dynamism and vitality and creativity of our young people, and I cannot think of a better investment of this country than supporting young Australians to do their very best on the world stage.
So my congratulations to the winners this evening, and to Advance – keep up the magnificent work.
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