Australian High Commission
Papua New Guinea

130614 - HOM Speech - Austrade Roadshow

14 June 2013

HE, Ms Deborah Stokes

2013 Tertiary Education Road Show
Crowne Plaza Hotel, Port Moresby



- Participating institutions in the 2013 Australian tertiary education Roadshow (list provided separately)
- Australia Award applicants

It is a great pleasure to be here.

My address today has three simple messages:

Australia is committed to a strong relationship with Papua New Guinea and education links are a vital part of this relationship.

Australia welcomes students from PNG with open arms.

To the 19 Australian tertiary institutions, I want you to know that this is an exciting time in PNG’s development and the economic prospects have never looked brighter.

Papua New Guinea is not only Australia’s closest neighbour, but is also one of its most important partners.

Building on our shared history, today we have a relationship that is very diverse – encompassing aid, trade, investment, defence and police cooperation, and underpinned by close people to people links,

Two-way trade is more than 16 billion kina, and Australian investment in PNG has grown to more than 41 billion kina.

This is about the same level as Australian investment in China.

The Australian Government wants these ties to grow further.

And that includes greater people to people exchanges and greater movement of people between our two countries.

For this reason, we have taken some important steps to improve the access of Papua New Guinea citizens to visas for Australia including removing some of the document requirements.

We have seen an increase of 25 per cent in the number of visitor visas granted in the past year alone.

We have also seen an increase in the numbers of PNG students coming to Australia to study.

Our next step will be to introduce the PNG Online Visitor Visa, which we expect to be available later this month.

This will enable PNG citizens to apply for visitor visas online, without having to physically lodge applications.

As part of this education roadshow, there is a special briefing on visa arrangements for study in Australia.

Australia has great confidence in PNG’s future.

In recent years, PNG has averaged some of the highest economic growth rates in the world.

The construction phase of the LNG project has brought enormous benefits to the country and also a sense of confidence about the future.

Other resource projects are major sources of revenue.

Mobile phone technology is also transforming life in PNG.

Banking services are also spreading rapidly throughout the country.

The PNG Government’s commitment to improving infrastructure and health and education services presents great potential for further significant transformation in the lives of Papua New Guineans.

The PNG Government is also committed to maintaining an environment that welcomes the private sector and investment.

It is a very exciting time to be in PNG – full of opportunities and potential.

Everyone in this room also knows that the country faces significant challenges.

Social indicators such as literacy levels and maternal and child mortality remain deeply disappointing.

Women in particular face serious challenges.

No nation can truly succeed without embracing the development of all its citizens, and unlocking the talents of all its people.

For Papua New Guinea to make the most of its enormous potential, PNG needs educated men and women.

Australia has a strong commitment to supporting education in Papua New Guinea through nearly AUD100m this year.

Our funds are helping more and more boys and girls get into elementary schools, and keeping them there for their entire primary and secondary schooling and then providing options for further education.

We are working with the National Department of Education to improve systems and workforce capacity and we are funding teacher training.

We are also working with the Office of Higher Education and the universities to raise the quality of PNG’s universities.

Under a new initiative, this year 450 Papua New Guineans started study in nursing, midwifery, community health work and education right here in Papua New Guinean institutions.

Through the Australia Awards program, 304 Papua New Guineans are already studying in Australia and 50 more will begin studies next semester.

And under the Australia Awards PNG Facility – previously known as Scholarships PNG – we are now selecting 160 people to study in Australia next year.

The Australia Awards Scholarships are highly competitive.

Over the past few days, applicants have been put through a rigorous selection process involving an interview and sitting a difficult test of academic ability.

This year’s shortlist currently includes 198 people – selected from a field of more than 700 applicants. Over 70 per cent of applicants have therefore already been eliminated.

Making it to these final selection processes an achievement in itself!

Final selection decisions are based on academic ability, leadership and employment record, the developmental benefit of the proposed field of study, and overall preparedness to study at institutions in Australia.

It’s a tough process, but necessary to ensure that we select candidates who are capable of succeeding in their chosen field of study and who will return to PNG bringing improved skills, knowledge and innovation to help advance national development.

One half of all scholarships will be allocated to female candidates.

There is also special consideration given to people living with a disability who are among the most disadvantaged in PNG society.

Shortlisted applicants will be advised the outcomes of the selection process in late July.

After this date, Provisional Australia Awards Scholar successful applicants still need to meet a range of strict requirements.

Applicants will still need to achieve a satisfactory result in an English test in August.

Applicants will also need to secure an Australian Student Visa. This includes meeting Australia’s health, financial and character requirements.

The experience of living and studying in Australia can be richly rewarding. It can also be challenging. For some it can be lonely.

For some it can be financially difficult and for others, particularly those who have not made adjustments to the different cultural and legal context, it can be confronting.

I encourage you all to give careful thought to the need for effective management of your financial, family and cultural obligations while on Award.

The highest standards of behaviour are expected of the fortunate students who obtain an Australia Awards Scholarship.

I would like to take this opportunity to say best wishes for your success in securing an Australia Awards Scholarship.

I hope that you make the most value of today’s opportunity to meet with representatives of Australian higher education institutions.

To the Australian education institutions represented here today, I hope that your visit to PNG will lead to even greater interest by your organisations in the exciting opportunities in PNG.

Thank you for your time today.