2013 marked the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australian and Viet Nam. This was an important milestone in the long-standing bilateral partnership and an opportunity to set the direction for future collaboration and co-operation. This week we celebrate Australia Day* and brought our 40 anniversary programme of events to a close.
|Science partnership: Ambassador Hugh Borrowman presents science sets to children after shows by Questacon, Australia's National Science and Technology Centre, in Ha Noi, HCM City and Da Nang. — Photo courtesy of Australian Embassy
We have also launched a photo book highlighting our activities over the past year. We brought leading artists, scientists and companies to Viet Nam to showcase Australia as a creative and innovative partner and an inclusive multicultural society and also to show the importance we attach to the relationship with Viet Nam – one of our most important partners in Asia.
Vietnamese audiences had the opportunity to enjoy concerts featuring Bangarra Dance Theatre, Australia's leading Indigenous dance theatre group and Australia's award-wining jazz trio Elixir featuring songstress Katie Noonan. Over 7,000 Vietnamese visitors in Ha Noi, Da Nang and HCM City had an opportunity to experience hands-on exhibits and live scientific shows from Questacon, Australia's National Science and Technology Centre. Performances by guitar duo Duo Agostino and rock band The Cairos also left a good impression on the Ha Noi audience.
Visits by Australian artists also provided an opportunity for exchange with Vietnamese students and artists. Bangarra held workshops on contemporary indigenous dance with artists from the Viet Nam Youth Theatre and Viet Nam Dance College. Elixir had an enriching workshop with students from the National University of Arts Education and visited a charity for disadvantaged children in Hoi An. During Questacon's visit to Viet Nam, teachers participated in workshops on making science in the classroom fun and Questacon Director Professor Graham Durant presented a seminar for Vietnamese museums on science communication which has led to new links and co-operation between the two countries in this area.
In the field of development co-operation, the ground breaking ceremony for the Cao Lanh Bridge in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta, a project co-funded by the ADB and Australia, was a highlight. With an investment of AUD160 million (US$143 million) in its design and construction, the bridge is the single largest Australian aid activity on mainland Southeast Asia and is considered as a new symbol of Australia and Viet Nam friendship. It is expected to open in 2017, directly benefiting around five million Vietnamese people by stimulating private sector investment and local industry, boosting exports, and improving access to social and health services.
The last year was also a successful year for education co-operation – a cornerstone in the bilateral relationship. The year witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Co-operation in Education and Training which provides a framework for bilateral education ties in the coming years. 2013 also saw the launch of the AsiaBound Grants Programme with 300 Australian students travelling to Viet Nam for one year in order to broaden and deepen their understanding of the region. Apart from 250 scholarships and over 100 fellowships provided by the Australian Government to Viet Nam to improve its human resource capacity, last year also marked the success of Vietnamese applicants who won 44 Australia's globally competitive and prestigious Endeavour scholarships and fellowships, the second highest number for any country among 125 eligible countries. In 2013, Australia remained the largest provider of scholarships to Viet Nam worldwide and the number-one choice destination for overseas study for Vietnamese students, with over 22,000 Vietnamese students currently studying in Australia.
High level visits, including the visit to Viet Nam by the then Speaker of the Australian Parliament Ms Anna Burke MP and the visits to Australia by Defence Minister Phung Quang Thanh, Industry and Trade Minister Vu Huy Hoang and Science and Technology Minister Nguyen Quan as well as the signing of bilateral agreements on Science and Technology Cooperation, Extradition, Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters and Law and Justice Cooperation, have further strengthened the bilateral relationship.
We are proud of what the two countries achieved in the anniversary year of 2013. We believe that the year opened a new chapter in the long-standing friendship between Australia and Viet Nam. In 2014 and the years to come, Australia will continue its strong commitment to a strong, prosperous and valued relationship on the foundations of the first 40 years.
* Australia Day, 26 January, is the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of ships from Great Britain in 1788. On Australia Day, Australians of all backgrounds come together to celebrate national unity and what's great about Australia and being Australian. It's the day to reflect on what we have achieved and what we can be proud of in our great nation. It's the day for us to re-commit to making Australia an even better place for the future. — VNS