The awards, which provide Australian-government backed tertiary-level scholarships, fellowships and short courses, aim to develop the needs of partner countries, further Australia’s soft power interests and enhance links between people and organisations within the Indo-Pacific.
“The Australian Government recognises that education develops skills and knowledge, builds enduring links, and has the power to influence positive change,” a department of foreign affairs and trade spokesperson told The PIE News.
“Our mission is to return home with the knowledge and skills we learn in Australia”
“This two-way educational exchange underpins Australia’s bilateral relations by empowering a global network of leaders, advocates and change-makers.”
In 2018, over 4,000 Australia Awards were provided to participants from more than 60 developing countries, including Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Bangladesh. Of the awards provided, 1,620 were for long-term study.
The scholarships program also seeks to develop emerging leaders within the region and has to date educated over 90,000 students, dating back to the original Colombo Plan in the 1950s.
Notable recipients include Cook Islands prime minister Henry Puna, Kiribati president Taneti Maamau, and Indonesian minister for women’s empowerment and child protection Yohana Susana Yembise.
“I believe that I will gain the skills and knowledge required to better undertake the issues my local community is faced with, and explore feasible solutions,” said commencing student Joel Israel.
Fijian-born Israel added he hoped to use the scholarship to facilitate future linkages between Australia and his home country.
“We are chosen amongst the best because… our mission is to return home with the knowledge and skills we learn in Australia to positively influence our local community,” he said.
In 2014, the Australian Government launched the New Colombo plan to increase student mobility between Australia and countries in the Indo-Pacific region. It was shortlisted for the championing diversity award at the inaugural PIEoneer Awards in 2017.