Australia India Education Partnership Gala Dinner

Think for a second of a four year old girl.

Left on a train.

Left by her parents.

Not because they didn’t love her.

Not because they were bad people.

Because they had no choice.

No hope.

She was found by people from the Salaam Balaak Trust.

They found and cared for her.

They educated her.

And she is here tonight.

She liked fashion design.

Today, she is a fashion designer. She has worked in high fashion in Paris.

In India’s biggest fashion houses. And now she is starting her own brand.

A life saved.

A life remade.

By good people and by the power of education.

And I have seen it everywhere on this trip.

On the faces of the young men and women from the Salaam Balaak Trust.

And the Asha Society.

On the faces of the students here in this room tonight.

Who have studied in Australia and are now home.

International Education isn’t just education.

It’s a bridge.

It makes us friends.

Friendships that last a lifetime.

You learn about another country.

Its people.

And its culture.

And when you leave you take that knowledge with you.

And you take with you a love and an affection for where you studied.

An affection that travels with you.

Throughout your life.

Australians here are finding that out.

People like:

  • Mary;
  • Veronica;
  • Amaya;
  • Margaret; and
  • Gerradine.

From Wadeye in the Northern Territory of Australia, 9,000 km away.

Studying textiles in Bhubaneshwar at Centurion University.

People like Abhishek Handa, also here tonight, who studied a Masters of Management at the University of Sydney in 2021 and now back working as a Project Manager at Mobinets.

Just a few people whose lives have been and are being transformed by the power of education.

In the last two days I’ve seen that power at work in so many places.

At Delhi University.

At Kendriya Vidyalya Sangathan school.

At Jawaharlal Nehru University.

We heard it at FICCI.

And I see it in the eyes of my friend Minister Pradhan.

We met in Australia last year.

And we did some of the things we have done on this trip.

We visited schools.

And universities.

We talked about the challenges our nations face today.

And we talked about the future.

Minister Pradhan told me about the Modi Government’s National Education Policy.

I was stunned at the audacity of it.

The magnitude of it.

The nation-changing scale of it. 

Half a billion people under the age of 23.

And a target to have half of young people in vocational and higher education by 2035.

That’s nation-changing stuff.

He set us a challenge to be part of this. To be partners.

He invited us to come here, to India.

We heard you, Dharmanda, and we came:

  • Professor Deborah Terry AO, Vice Chancellor and President of the University of Queensland;
  • Professor Alec Cameron, Vice Chancellor and President of RMIT University;
  • Professor Brian Schmidt, Vice-Chancellor and President of Australian National University;
  • Professor Mark Scott AO, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Sydney;
  • Professor John Dewar AO, Vice-Chancellor of La Trobe University;
  • Professor Patricia Davidson, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Wollongong;
  • Professor Barney Glover AO, Vice-Chancellor and President of Western Sydney University;
  • Professor Nick Klomp, Vice-Chancellor and President of CQUniversity;
  • Professor David Lloyd, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of South Australia;
  • Professor Scott Bowman AO, Vice-Chancellor and President, Charles Darwin University;
  • Professor Lisa Zamberlan, Acting Vice-Chancellor of the University of New South Wales;
  • Professor Susan Elliott AM, Provost and Senior Vice President, Monash University;
  • Professor Michael Wesley, Deputy Vice-Chancellor International, University of Melbourne;
  • Mr Kean Selway, Executive Vice-President (Futures) at Deakin University;
  • Emeritus Professor Peter Coaldrake AO, Chief Commissioner, Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency;
  • Mr Troy Williams, Chief Executive Officer of the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia;
  • The Honourable Peter Hendy, Chief Executive Officer of Independent Higher Education Australia;
  • The Honourable Phil Honeywood, Chief Executive Officer, International Education Association of Australia;
  • The Honourable Lisa Singh, Chief Executive Officer, Australia India Institute;
  • Ms Vicki Thompson, Chief Executive Officer, Group of Eight;
  • Mr Luke Sheehy, Executive Director, Australian Technology Network of Universities;
  • Dr John Wellard, Policy Director (International and Security) at Universities Australia;
  • Ms Tracey Wright, Chief Operating Officer, Group of Eight; and
  • Tony Cook, the incoming Secretary of Australia’s Department of Education.

Thank you for showing how serious we are.

For responding to the challenge.

For seeing value in this partnership.

And thank you my friend, Dharmendra.

We’ve signed an important agreement today.

Our universities have signed important agreements.

And we’ve talked about what’s next.

The next things we can do together.

Last night, the High Commissioner of Australia Barry O’Farrell took us to the North and South Block.

Took us to a pillar erected 93 years ago.

It was a gift from Australia to India

It reminded me, if I needed reminding, that our countries have been friends for a very long time.

But we have never been this close.

And the work we have done this week will bring us together closer still.

I really believe that.

Brought together by the most powerful cause for good.

The education of our children.