Distinguished guests, future Macquarie students, ladies and gentlemen.
I’m pleased to be able to join you this afternoon at Macquarie University’s Open Day event in Chengdu.
It’s fantastic to see Macquarie University actively engaging with Chengdu and southwest China.
This is China’s fastest growing region. We are seeing more and more interest among its young population – represented by many of you here today – in the opportunities available through study in Australia.
Australia and China have now enjoyed many decades of strong diplomatic relations. China is of course Australia’s largest trading partner but, as all of you here today would know, our engagement with one another extends far beyond trade.
At its core, the Australia-China relationship is very much about people. This is particularly true when it comes to our education relationship.
Last year, more than 205,000 Chinese students studied on a student visa in Australia – a record amount. In fact, growth has been so strong that 2018 was actually the 4th consecutive record year in terms of Chinese students studying in Australia.
They make an enormous contribution to Australia’s economy and society, and to making Australian university campuses some of the most internationalised in the world.
We estimate that there are now 500,000 Australian alumni living and working in China. We want to celebrate more of these success stories and connections, and showcase the amazing achievements our alumni have made across the globe.
China is also one of the most popular study destinations for Australian university students; in fact, more Australians study in China as a proportion of total population than Chinese in Australia.
However, it is important to look beyond the numbers. It is only when you focus on people and partnerships that you can really appreciate and understand the value and depth of our education relationship.
Every student, researcher or academic that we exchange represents the beginning of one more relationship between our countries. These relationships form the fundamental basis for not just the Australia-China relationship, but ultimately the security and prosperity of the entire Indo-Pacific region.
Macquarie University continues to strengthen its own institutional links in China, including through its joint PhD program with Fudan University and study abroad arrangements with other prominent Chinese universities.
Macquarie also has links with Chengdu through its partnership with the world-renowned Australian bionic ear manufacturer Cochlear. Cochlear’s collaboration with the Sichuan Innovation and Entrepreneurship Promotion Association to establish a Sino-Australia International Hearing Hub is in fact modelled on the Australian Hearing Hub at Macquarie.
These institutional partnerships have shown, and continue to show, the strength in working together to improve educational outcomes and benchmarks.
They have significantly enhanced our mutual cultural understanding, supported the development of world class research, and driven innovation.
So, as you can see, the Australia-China education relationship is of significant strategic importance. I hope those of you here today will be the next generation of people to take that relationship to new heights.
I leave you with some words of advice:
Once in Australia, use your time to not only study hard, but also look for opportunities to further enrich your experience. Visit Australia’s beautiful attractions; enjoy Australia’s multicultural society through its food, art and other social interactions; and - most importantly - engage with your local community.
Thank you to Macquarie University for inviting me this afternoon and to all of you for considering Macquarie and Australia for being part of your future.