2016 Australia Day Message
Catherine Raper, Representative, Australian Office Taipei
People key to growing Australia-Taiwan partnership
26 January is Australia Day, a time when Australians celebrate our journey as a nation, reflect on what we have learned, and look forward to the opportunities ahead. This year, 2016, is a milestone in Australia-Taiwan relations as it marks the 35th anniversary of the Australian Office in Taiwan. I want to take this opportunity to celebrate our friendship with Taiwan and our achievements over the past year and to look ahead to opportunities for the future.
2015: an eventful year
2015 was a busy and eventful year for our friendship with Taiwan. One consistent theme was a growing focus on young people. Australia’s New Colombo Plan scholarship program was launched in Taiwan, bringing over 60 Australian university students here. Many told us the trip was a “life-changing experience” which had opened their eyes to further possibilities in Taiwan. The program has been so successful that these numbers will more than double in 2016. This is a significant outcome. I would like to thank the Ministry of Education, the Council of Indigenous Peoples and Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their support for this program.
Taiwan’s young people are also making an impact in Australia. Australia currently ranks as the second-most-preferred overseas destination for Taiwanese students. We celebrated the successes of returned students with an Alumni Gala Dinner in March, where I was able to present awards to distinguished alumni – and even join them on the dance floor!
In addition to students, there are also around 26 000 Taiwanese currently in Australia as working holiday makers - a figure that is second only to UK and makes Australia by far the most popular destination for young Taiwanese. We have heard many positive reports of the contribution these young Taiwanese make to Australian communities. In 2015, we wanted to connect with working holiday makers ourselves and hear more about their journeys and experiences in Australia. With this in mind we held our first ever working holiday maker photography competition using our Australian Office Facebook page (you can follow us at www.facebook.com/AustralianOfficeTaipei!). The response was overwhelming, with over 1,500 submissions by talented amateur photographers. I am delighted to share a small selection with you here, in advance of an exhibition of the full collection of 34 winning photographs which we will launch in Taipei in March.
In 2015, we also saw significant milestones in our trade and economic relationship with Taiwan. A highlight was a visit by Minister of Economic Affairs John Deng to Australia in September, the first such visit in over seven years. His trip helped cement our strong trade and economic links and identify new opportunities for the future. I would also like to acknowledge with thanks the dedication of Taiwan’s MOFA and Ministry of Economic Affairs. Together we ensured successful outcomes for annual economic consultations (in Taipei in June) and energy and minerals consultations (in Darwin in September).
A final area of cooperation I am very proud of is our growing program of Indigenous and artistic exchanges. This year I travelled to not one but four cities across Taiwan to open our travelling “Canning Stock Route” Exhibition, a unique opportunity to share Australian Indigenous art, culture and history with local communities in Taiwan. I was equally honoured to present Australian Indigenous musicians “Black Arm Band” as part of this year’s Taipei Arts Festival in August, share outstanding Australian dance theatre group Chunky Move with Taiwan audiences and promote Australia-Taiwan dance collaboration “eXchange”. We concluded 2015 taking in the work of Australian award-winning light sculpture company The Electric Canvas at our “Australian Christmas in New Taipei” event.
Each of these successful activities is only the tip of the bilateral iceberg: behind them are many more institutional, community, business and personal connections between Australians and their Taiwanese counterparts. And it is no surprise to us that our Australian visitors find Taiwan a friendly and convenient destination for both business and leisure. I am told phrase this phrase went viral online this year: “Taiwan’s most beautiful scenery is its people” (台灣最美的風景是人). I couldn’t agree more.
Looking ahead: 2016
2016 is the year of the monkey. People born in the year of the monkey are said to be witty and smart. As such, it is the perfect time to promote closer collaboration and institutional partnership with Taiwan in the area of innovation and science. The Australian Government has just launched a National Innovation and Science Agenda, a blueprint for a more entrepreneurial Australia. I am very pleased to say that Taiwan has been selected as one of 17 priority international partners, in recognition of its strengths in technological innovation.
Beyond this, I can foresee a range of opportunities in 2016 building on the strong ties between Australia and Taiwan and our highly complementary economies. I see opportunities for collaboration in agriculture, aquaculture, renewable energy and investment. We look forward to welcoming more students and working holiday makers.
Building connections between two cultures is a journey. Over the past few decades, we’ve learned to focus on what we do best together, how we complement each other and how we can partner for maximum success. We have built a strong foundation for the future. 2016 will be a time of change and renewal in Taiwan, with a new government to take office in May. I look forward to continuing to work to strengthen and deepen links between Australian and Taiwanese people.