Speech at the Centre for Australia-India Relations

  • Speech, check against delivery
Parramatta HQ Launch, Sydney

Can I begin by thanking Uncle Graham Davis-King for the Welcome to Country.

I pay my respects to the Dharug people, the traditional custodians of the land on which we gather, and to all their elders past and present.

Thank you Indira Naidoo for your introduction, and to Swati Dave and Tim Thomas for guiding the Centre for Australia-India Relations through this foundational period.

I am pleased to see Minister Farrell, Minister Rowland and Minister Keogh here this evening, and the NSW Treasurer, representing the NSW Premier. I acknowledge my many federal and state ministerial and parliamentary colleagues present tonight, and His Excellency Gopal Baglay, India’s High Commissioner to Australia.

My warm welcome also to the senior business, academic and cultural leaders here tonight. 

I am thrilled that we are here, meeting in in Parramatta tonight – Parramatta, a placename derived from the Dharug language – to launch the Centre that is working to deepen Australia’s relationship with India, a nation with which we share so many connections, including the connections of our Indian-Australian communities.

As Foreign Minister, travelling in the world and here at home, I have always started with who we are – because that is what our foreign policy projects and protects.

We are a pluralist nation, we welcome different races, religions and views, united by respect for each other’s humanity and for each other’s right to live in peace.

Our rich heritage is drawn from the oldest continuing civilisation and from more than 300 ancestries.

Half of the Australian population was born overseas or has a parent who was born overseas.

That includes me.

It means when Australians look across the world, we see ourselves, just as the world sees itself reflected in us.

This matters here today.

One in every 25 Australians claims Indian heritage – our fastest-growing and second-largest diaspora community.

The tapestry of Australia’s diverse communities is more intricate still. Communities that speak English or Hindi, Tamil or Telugu, Punjabi or Gujarati. That celebrate Holi or Diwali, Eid or Vaisakhi, Christmas or Vesak.

Our guests here tonight are shining examples of this – whether it’s in business, politics, the law, government, civil society, academia, science, the arts or on the sporting field – we celebrate the community tonight.

As we celebrated Senator Varun Ghosh earlier this year, the first ever Australian Senator sworn in on the Gita.

The Centre for Australia-India Relations has a special role in celebrating and harnessing the talents in the community.

That’s why we are announcing today the Centre’s CEO and Director Network, which engages Indian-Australian corporate leaders to build knowledge of India among their peers in the Australian business community.

The Centre is also committed to deepening cultural connections.

The Centre’s Maitri Cultural Partnerships program brings together the creative and vibrant industries from India and Australia.

Janet Marawarr from Bábbarra Women’s Centre in Maningrida, Arnhem Land has travelled here tonight from Arnhem Land.

She is one of the artists who designed the textiles you see around the room.

These works were created as a direct result of a cultural exchange between Bábbarra and the Tharangini Studio in Bengaluru. Thank you Janet, for your contribution this evening.

Artists from Babbarra will travel to Bengaluru later this year to work with Tharangini on a major exhibition planned at Bengaluru Convention Centre in October.

Tonight also features two other cultural partnership projects supported by the Centre – the immersive new media piece you would have walked through on your arrival – which is a collaboration between Liquid Architecture and Delhi’s Sarai Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

And the evocative drumming of Bobby Singh and Ben Walsh, fusing sounds from both our rich cultural traditions.

One year ago, Prime Minister Albanese announced the Centre would be established in Parramatta – just up the road at the Qudos Stadium in front of Prime Minister Modi.

I remember that night thinking about this part of Sydney, and the many advocates in the community and in the parliament for this important part of Sydney.

I want to acknowledge some of the representatives here for their efforts in this area – at the federal level, Andrew Charlton, Anne Stanley, Alison Byrnes, Jerome Laxale and Sally Sitou, and locally, Donna Davis, Warren Kirby, Charisma Kaliyanda and Lord Mayor Esber.

That night in Homebush, Prime Minister Albanese said Indian Australians ‘are the lifeblood of the relationship that India and Australia share’.

I want to talk about the relationship tonight.

Australia and India share this region and we share a future.

We are working together to shape the region that we want.

A region in which sovereignty is respected.

And one in which no country dominates or is dominated.

I have met Dr Jaishankar, my counterpart in India, more times than any other foreign minister.

Our prime ministers have met eight times in the past two years.

We work towards this goal through our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, through the Quad, and through regional architecture and the multilateral system.

As Minister Farrell will talk about, we have great plans to grow our economic partnership and deepen two-way trade and investment.

We are launching new climate initiatives in green steel and hydrogen, critical minerals and innovation and technology.

When I was in India in November with Deputy Prime Minister Marles for the 2+2 ministerial meeting, I said that pluralism and democracy were being challenged worldwide.

These challenges have only become more acute. There is less tolerance of the very freedoms, including for media, and religious practice, that are integral to open societies. In that context, the next generation of Indians and Australians have a special responsibility to nurture and strengthen the institutions that we hold dear.

Tonight I am pleased to announce the Centre’s inaugural Maitri fellows and scholars.

The Maitri Fellowships program will see Indian researchers and academics placed in Australian institutes, working with their Australian counterparts to deepen thinking on strategic and regional issues.

They include placements to consider how Australia and India can collaborate to strengthen our presence in Southeast Asia, or explore opportunities to strengthen maritime port infrastructure and connectivity between our countries.

The inaugural Maitri Scholars program will this year bring five of India’s brightest minds in STEM research to Australia to undertake post-graduate studies with practical applications.

They include research on the storage and transportation of green hydrogen for sustainable energy solutions, and on improving our understanding of soil behaviour for the installation of offshore wind turbines.

Maitri means ‘friendship’ in Sanskrit. The momentum in the India-Australia relationship, more than anything else, comes from our people.

That includes the remarkable Australian-Indian community, our fastest growing diaspora. It includes the million-odd Indian tourists and students that come to Australia each year. And of course, all of you, attending here this evening.

The Centre’s mission is how to bring this all together and to elevate the national conversation on India, at a time where our ties have never been more consequential.

I thank you all for being here tonight, and thank the Centre for Australia-India Relations for hosting this event.

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