The Australia-Japan Foundation (AJF) is celebrating its 40th anniversary throughout 2016 alongside the 40th Anniversary of the 1976 Basic Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Australia and Japan.
A desire to broaden Australia-Japan relations beyond a natural economic partnership lay behind the negotiation of the 1976 Treaty. The Treaty formalised the ‘enduring peace and friendship between the two countries and their peoples’ and remains a genuine statement of intent of mutual goodwill, friendship and assurance of non-discriminatory treatment. The Australia-Japan Foundation grew out of the Treaty and continues to promote bilateral people-to-people and institutional linkages.
Originally nicknamed the Nippon-Australia Relations Agreement (NARA), the Treaty was signed in Tokyo on 16 June 1976 by Prime Ministers Malcolm Fraser and Takeo Miki. It came into force on 21 August 1977.
The Treaty was celebrated in Japan with the Australian Foreign Minister, The Hon Julie Bishop MP at an event at the Australian Embassy during her visit to Japan in February 2016. The event included a rollcall of AJF grantees past and present.
The AJF and the Embassy of Japan jointly celebrated the fortieth anniversaries of the 1976 Treaty and the founding of the AJF at a special event at Australia’s Parliament House with the Australian Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP and Ms Gai Brodtmann MP (Shadow Assistant Minister for Cyber Security and Defence Personnel) representing the Opposition.
The Prime Minister spoke of an optimistic outlook for this strong bilateral partnership and noted Australia and Japan’s shared values including on the benefits of free trade and the rule of law.
Ms Brodtmann brought a local and intimate perspective on the relationship highlighting the sister-city relationship between her electorate Canberra and the ancient Japanese city of Nara.
Japan’s Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Mr Sumio Kusaka provided background and context on the Basic Treaty and an overview of the current bilateral relationship.
AJF Chair, Mr Murray McLean AO, highlighted the role AJF plays in bringing Australians and Japanese together and the continuing importance of establishing enduring and deep networks. As the Australian Ambassador in Japan at the time, Mr McLean said he was particularly proud of AJF’s commitment to bringing relief to the communities still rebuilding after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.
Japan’s piano virtuoso Mr Nobuyuki Tsujii, who is blind, performed at the event for an audience of Australians and Japanese who have each contributed to the relationship over the last forty years. Mr Tsujii thanked Australia for its support for Japan after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami before playing a highly moving encore piece of his own composition for the victims of the disaster.
The AJF and AJF’s 2016 grantees have and will continue to mark the year through special projects and other events including the AJF 40th Anniversary keynote address on the topic of ‘Winning in an uncertain world’ that was presented by Mr Luke Sayers (CEO PwC Australia) at the joint Australia-Japan/Japan-Australia Business Co-operation Committee (AJBCC-JABCC) major conference in Melbourne.