Australia Day is an occasion to celebrate the best of Australia, and what it means to be an Australian. We celebrate our history, our heritage, and the values and institutions that underpin contemporary Australia.
It is an occasion to acknowledge and pay respect to the First Australians – Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people.
On Australia Day we celebrate the diversity of our communities, and the opportunities we enjoy as the “Lucky Country”. We celebrate with family at home and abroad, with new friends and old, and in communities separated by vast stretches of sunburnt land.
So I am delighted we are able to share our Australia Day celebrations with our colleagues and friends in Cambodia.
2017 was an important year for the work we do in Cambodia and in the Indo-Pacific region, with the release of the Australian Foreign Policy White Paper in November.
The White Paper sets out a comprehensive framework for Australia’s role in a contested and competitive world. It is grounded in our national values of freedom, equality, democracy and mutual respect.
The White Paper answers, for Australia, the question of “what kind of region and world do we want to live in?”
We want an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific region in which the rights of all states are respected.
We want to deliver more opportunities for Australian businesses globally, and stand against protectionism.
We want Australians to be safe, secure and free from threats such as terrorism.
We want to promote and protect the international rules that support stability and prosperity, and enable cooperation to tackle global challenges.
And we want to continue to provide targeted and effective development assistance to our region and beyond.
The work we do in Cambodia is essential to achieving Australia’s goal for a secure, open, inclusive and prosperous region. Together, we are helping Cambodia to achieve its development goals, and to reduce poverty in the Indo-Pacific region.
Australian aid in Cambodia is high quality, efficient and effective. We are improving access to essential infrastructure; increasing agricultural productivity and farmer incomes; and supporting better health outcomes.
We are supporting more than 26 water and 11 electricity companies to bring piped, treated water and electricity to rural communities, benefitting more than half a million Cambodians.
We are helping to build new irrigation schemes, providing thousands of farmers and communities with reliable and affordable water.
We are working with Cambodia to provide the poorest three million Cambodians with subsidised health care and build the quality of health care services across the country.
We are enhancing inclusive participation for people living a disability, and funding programs to end violence against women.
Last year we supported 40 new Australian volunteers to work with organisations in Cambodia. Through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program, we also funded 66 projects implemented by 26 NGOs across Cambodia.
Our commitment to Cambodia’s development was reinforced by Australia’s minister for international development and the Pacific, the Honourable Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, during her March 2017 visit.
We are bringing our region closer together by building links between Cambodian and Australian people.
Last year we supported 48 Cambodian students to study in Australia under the Australia Awards Scholarships.
Cambodia was also the fifth most popular New Colombo Plan destination, with around 440 Australian students coming to Cambodia. This year we expect 530 Australian students.
We are working to make our region more open and prosperous, with new Australian businesses investing in Cambodia.
We are making our region safer through cooperation on combating transnational crime, including narcotics, child sex tourism, human trafficking, fraud and people smuggling.
Immigration, refugee settlement and border protection remain an important area of cooperation between Australia and Cambodia.
We are also working together to strengthen our resolve against terrorism and maritime security threats through our Defence Cooperation Program.
Australian Vice Chief of the Defence Force Rear Admiral Ray Griggs took forward this agenda during his visit to Cambodia in August 2017.
Australia is making our own contribution to a safer, stronger and more prosperous region. We have continued our focus on strong and inclusive economic growth at home, with 26 years of consecutive annual economic growth.
In March 2018, we will welcome Asean leaders to Australia for the Asean-Australia Special Summit. This Summit will chart a course for collective action to tackle pressing challenges, and realise new opportunities.
In 2018, Australia assumed a new position on the Human Rights Council. We will bring a unique Indo-Pacific perspective to advance gender equality, freedom of expression, good governance and robust democratic institutions, human rights for indigenous peoples, and strong national human rights institutions.
Consistent with Australia’s longstanding advocacy and leadership in these areas, we will encourage all countries – including Cambodia – to uphold democracy and respect human rights.
In Cambodia, as is the case in Australia, it is essential that all citizens be able to exercise fundamental democratic and human rights – including freedom of expression and freedom of association.
Our work in Cambodia would not be possible without the support and engagement of our Cambodian and international colleagues and friends. We thank you, and encourage you to join with us in celebrating Australia Day!