Address to BRIDGE program school

  • Speech, E&OE

As very younguniversity students my sister and I made our first overseas trip to KualaLumpur. We met with a number ofMalaysian medical students who had studied at Adelaide University in SouthAustralia. We had a wonderful time withthem, we went to street markets and we saw tourist sites and it was just amarvellous introduction to Malaysia. What I learned at that time, and has stayed with me ever since, is thateducation is truly the bridge between nations and peoples. Australia andMalaysia have shown the world how student exchanges can be the foundation ofenduring friendship. Indeed through the Colombo Plan in the 1950s and 1960s,through literally tens of thousands of Malaysian students coming to Australiato study in our universities and institutions, we have built a connection thatI cannot imagine appearing in any other way.

Now theAustralian Government is determined to ensure that more young Australians learnabout Malaysia, understand your culture, your heritage, build a much deeperappreciation of the importance of the relationship between Australia andMalaysia. So we've introduced the New Colombo Plan which will see Australianstudents come to Malaysia and this year, the first year of the new Plan, 150Australian undergraduates from Unis of states across Australia will be spendingtime here in Malaysia. Four of them will be spending at least two semesters,hopefully more, studying more intensively. Next year, we hope that there willbe 260 Australians, the year after that more, so over time there will be asignificant number of young Australians who will have had the joy and theprivilege of spending time in your beautiful country.

The bridge program that we are here tocelebrate is also an opportunity for Australian and Malaysian teachers to learnmore about each other's education systems, the way we do things, exchangeideas, perspectives and insights. It's an opportunity for students to connectwith a school in Australia to form connections and networks, and hopefullyfriendships. And I know this afternoon we've seen an example of that in action.

The bridge program is an initiative betweenthe education departments here in Malaysia and the counterpart department inAustralia. Through the bridgeprogram 16 schools are connected with similar schools in Australia. I can't think of a better way for youngstudents to learn more about another country in the region than through thiskind of connection, this type of engagement.

I want tothank the teachers for the involvement and support you have provided to the bridge program. After all, afterparents, the teachers are the single most important factor in a student'seducational outcomes. So I thank theteachers for being involved as a part of your commitment to nurturing the studentsthat you have in your care. And to thestudents may I say, make the most of this opportunity to get to know someAussie kids. They will appreciate the opportunity to get to know you. And hopefully you will have experiences, as Idid when I was a young student, of spending time in Australia. It will betransformative, it will change your life and as it did for me for it has givenme such a deep love and appreciation of the people of Malaysia and of thisgreat nation.

So it's myhonour to be here today and I'm so delighted to take this opportunity tocelebrate all that is positive and strong about our friendship and pay tributeto this BRIDGE program that is connecting our students, our teachers, ourschools, our communities, our nations in such a positive way.

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