National Australia Day Function Speech 2019
26 Jan 2019
Sabaai dii leh sok dii bee mai
Core hian pah-nah-taan Dr Kham-ma-ny In-ti-rat
lad-a-mon-tee gah-suu-ang pah-lang-ngarn leh bor-hair
Hian pah-nah-tarn-narng Kham-phao Ern-ta-van, hong lad-a-mon-tee gah-suang karn-tarng-pah-tehd
Tarn lad-a-mon-tee, cake tee mee giad
Tarn nying leh tarn sigh
Tarng-nah lah-tah-barn Austalie, pan-lan-nyah, hoong-tood Jane leh pah-nak-ngarn sah-tarn-tood Austalie, ka-pah-jow kor-torn-hub took tarn sue sah-tarn-tood Austalie, peua sah-long one-saad Austalie.
I hope that you will all have an opportunity to catch up with old friends, or maybe make some new ones, whilst experiencing a little of our food and culture in what we hope is a relaxed and friendly environment.
Our national day is a time for all Australians to reflect on what it means to be Australian, to celebrate contemporary Australia whilst also acknowledging our history.
Australia is one of the most multicultural countries in the world.
Our population of 25 million consists of more than 300 different ancestries – which includes around 12,000 Australians of Lao heritage.
The first Australians, the indigenous peoples, arrived more than 60,000 years ago.
Today they keep one of the world’s oldest civilisations alive, which enriches our contemporary society.
We are delighted to have with us today Mitch Tambo, a Gami-la-raay/ Birri Gubba man from Melbourne.
Mitch will share with you a little of this culture later tonight.
Australia is a young, robust democracy, with an open, competitive economy.
Like Laos we have a beautiful and diverse landscape and a clean environment.
We welcome innovation, and creativity.
We do not mind a good debate and we respect the opinions of those with whom we do not agree.
Australians and Lao people share many things in common:
- a “bopenyang”/“no worries” attitude to life;
- a love of getting together with family and friends to share good food and company;
- and of course a love our national drinks – “beer”.
Like Laos, Australia is a country that values highly our partnerships with our neighbours, and our close connections with all peoples and cultures across Asia and the Indo-Pacific region.
Among these connections, our relationship with the Lao PDR is one of the longest enduring.
This year we are celebrating 67 years of friendly diplomatic relations.
I believe this strong and unwavering relationship could not be possible without the strong people-to-people links we share.
For example, since the 1950s thousands of Lao professionals have experienced a world-class education in Australia - most of those with the support of Australian Government scholarships.
And I am pleased to see many of these Australian alumni here tonight celebrating with us.
And Australians are frequent visitors to Laos as well.
In 2018 around 20,000 Australian tourists visited Laos for Visit Laos Year.
In addition, in the last 30 years over 500 Australians have given their time to volunteer in Laos.
I would like to make a special welcome to the Australian volunteers who are with us here tonight.
With so many links between us, our two countries and two peoples have developed a strong bond.
A bond that becomes especially important in times of great need.
Last year, Australians were shocked and saddened by the tragic saddle dam collapse in Attapeu province, as well as the flooding that affected thousands of people across the nation.
I am proud we were able to deliver emergency supplies for Sanamxay District within four days of the incident, and that our ongoing assistance totalling $3 million is helping the affected families, especially women and children, to rebuild their lives.
We were able to act quickly because of the relationships we have built over the decades working in partnership with the Lao PDR, particularly to support its development.
And we remain committed to assist Laos reach its national socioeconomic goals.
In particular we are focusing on:
- quality education for all primary school students;
- developing the private sector;
- human resource development;
- supporting the sustainable use of water resources; and
- promoting opportunities for women, girls and people with a disability.
This year we are also supporting the Lao Government’s dam safety review to ensure the hydropower sector can sustainably and safely contribute to the Lao economy, and we are funding UXO clearance.
But Australia’s cooperation with the Lao PDR is much broader than just development.
During our High Level Consultations with the Lao Government last year, our two governments discussed our ongoing high-level political exchanges, regional issues of mutual interest and areas to enhance our cooperation.
Ever since Australia became ASEAN’s first dialogue partner 45 years ago, we have valued our cooperation with ASEAN, and its members like the Lao PDR, very highly.
2018 was a particularly important year in this respect as we welcomed His Excellency Prime Minister Thong-loon, with Ministers Salerm-xay, Khemmani, Alooon-keo, Somkeo and the President of LNCCI Mr Oudet to Sydney for the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit.
During his visit, the Prime Minister managed time to get up close and personal with some locals.
But he also spoke to Australian and Laos business people about his Government’s efforts to increase competition and improve the ease of doing business as a main platform to attract investment and drive national development.
Australian companies have a long history of high quality operations in Laos from tourism and hospitality to banking and natural resources.
As the Lao Government tackles difficult but necessary economic reforms, I look forward to seeing more of these valuable investments contributing to the Lao economy in future.
2018 was also a very significant year for our ongoing defence cooperation, as we celebrated 20 years of formal defence relations between the Lao PDR and Australia.
On that note I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Lao PDR for the 70th anniversary of the Lao People’s Army.
We hope 2019 will also bring Laos and Australia many more special reasons to celebrate.
This year I look forward to marking the 25th anniversary of the first Lao Thai Friendship Bridge with the Lao and Thai Governments – an enduring symbol of Australia’s support to the development of Laos, and perhaps Laos’ first step from land-locked to land linked.
Another significant milestone for Laos and Australia will be taking place in August, as our two governments hold our next bilateral Human Rights Dialogue.
In addition, throughout this year, Australia will be delivering in the Lao PDR and other ASEAN countries an initiative called Australia Now ASEAN - Connecting and Celebrating Youth.
Australia Now is a year-long celebration that will showcase the vitality, diversity and innovative capability of our youth and connect future leaders across the region, through cultural events focussed on exchange.
On a personal note, I am looking forward to continuing my travels across the country, visiting Australian companies, supporting our development cooperation and getting to know the Laos history, diversity and culture better.
I am looking forward to visiting Xieng Khoang province next month to see Australian funded education and cultural programs as well as my first visit to the world famous Plain of Jars, which I hope will be become Laos’ 3rd world heritage site later this year.
Finally I would like to end my remarks where I began - by welcoming and thanking you all again.
You have all been individually invited tonight because in some important way you are contributing to the ongoing effort that is the Laos-Australia partnership and friendship.
Behind all the facts and figures I have mentioned tonight are the people and relationships, the hard work and collaborations that make our partnership strong and successful.
And for this I want to thank each and every one of you for your commitment to that partnership.
I would like to especially thank Excellencies Ministers and Vice Ministers for doing us the great honour of attending tonight.
And I would also like to thank our generous Australian sponsors for their support this evening:
- Aurion Legal
- Dominion Mining and;
Core hai took tarn, mee sue-kah-parb keng-heng, leh pah-sob pon-sum-let took wiak-ngarn ta-lord bee Song pan zip kao der!
Sohk dii leh khop jai lai lai
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I now propose a toast to His Excellency Mr Boun-nyang Vol-a-chit, President of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and to the people of the Lao PDR.
And to H.E. General, The Honourable, Sir Peter Cosgrove, Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia, and to the people of Australia.