2017 Defence Alumni Dinner
29 November 2017, Lao Plaza Hotel, Vientiane
Speech by Australian Ambassador John Williams
- Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 8th annual Australian Defence Alumni dinner
This is an important annual event for Australia in Laos, as our cohort of alumni, those Lao defence personnel who have completed dedicated training programs with the Australian Defence Force, continues to grow in number
- I’m proud to say I’ve been able to attend half of all our defence alumni dinners to date, this evening attending my 4th and last before my term as Ambassador ends in late December.
- Tonight’s a celebration of several important things.
- Firstly, a celebration of your achievements, as you utilise our training to build your skills and career on behalf of the people of the Lao PDR
selection for our defence training programs is recognition of your individual abilities and potential
It’s very much a targeted investment in your future, and that of the Lao PDR.
- It’s also, of course, a celebration of the growing defence and security links between Australia and Laos
- An even more significant celebration for us in 2017, as we mark the 65th anniversary of Laos-Australia relations - an important milestone, worthy of celebration,… and not just an excuse to drink a lot more Australian wine and Beer Lao than we ordinarily might.
- Next year, another important milestone, as we celebrate 20 years of formal defence relations between our two countries. (So yes, more Australian wine and Beer Lao, and more Lam Wong too, of course.)
- I’m delighted to note the most senior Australian Government visit to the Lao PDR this year was the first ever official visit by an Australian Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, in August – a further strong signal of Australia’s commitment to closer defence links with our friends here in Laos.
- There’s also a deeper, more significant story here in Australia’s defence cooperation program – as we seek to to build closer networks of understanding between our respective military servicemen and women, something Australia seeks to do across the broader Indo-Pacific region
- Australia’s agenda is very open. We see stronger defence establishments here in the Lao PDR, and across our region, are a positive development for regional security
- And developing habits of close cooperation and communication among the defence forces in our region is, in our view, an excellent way to advance our collective security.
- I welcome this evening, in particular, defence attaches or representatives from Cambodia, from China, Myanmar, Thailand, the United States, and a number of other important regional partners for the Lao PDR – in addition, of course, to Australia’s Defence Attache to the Lao PDR, Col Nerolie McDonald, and her staff.
- In security, as in other fields, it’s good for Laos to have many friends and partners, each with something unique to contribute.As I mentioned at the outset, our network of Australian Defence alumni in Laos is growing – we’re getting close to 2000 alumni now, an impressive number built up over the last two decades. This includes:
- Around 200 personnel who have completed short-course training programs at the Defence International Training Centre (DITC) - at the very appropriately named RAAF Base Williams in Melbourne
- Over 1500 Lao defence staff have taken English language training classes at Vientiane College
- And we’re delighted to have opened a new opportunity next year: as 2 LPA officers will study English for 12 months in preparation for a Defence scholarship, to complete a Masters qualification at an Australian university, starting in 2019.
- Ladies and gentlemen, thanks again for joining us this evening. We’re very proud of this growing network of friends here in the Lao PDR. And looking forward to a relaxed celebration with you all this evening.
For all our defence alumni, please keep in touch with Australia, and with the Australian Embassy here in Vientiane, including through our facebook account, ‘Australia in Laos’ (You’ll find a bunch of photos of yourselves on ‘Australia in Laos’ tomorrow.)
- I’m also delighted the Australia Plus TV channel is up and running on Lao cable TV
- It’s not as well known as BBC or CNN, but it’s an excellent channel to keep in touch with Australia, and the Australian accent, with its range of news, current affairs, sport and dedicated English language programming.
Finally, on a personal note, it’s been a real privilege to have served as Australia’s Ambassador to the Lao PDR over the past four years.
My family and I will be leaving with many vivid memories and close friendships.
I know my successor, Mr Jean-Bernard Carrasco, looks forward to his arrival here in early January, and I am sure to presiding over this event next year, as we celebrate 20 years of formal defence cooperation.
Thanks to Col McDonald and her Australian defence staff for the excellent arrangements for tonight’s dinner.
Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy the dinner, and the Australian wine and Lao beer. And please stay for a Lam Wong or several.