The Honourable Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister of Australia, Ms Gai Brodtman MP, representing the Leader of the Opposition, Ambassador Sumio Kusaka, Mrs Kusaka, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
As Ambassador Kusaka has just explained, the Basic Treaty of 1976 was the expression of intent at the highest level, to bring the two countries and peoples closer together in order to broaden the bilateral relationship beyond the already burgeoning economic relationship.
The Australia-Japan Foundation was set up as one of several key Australian Government mechanisms to give substance to the lofty language of the Basic Treaty. Today the AJF’s establishment and activities might be referred to as public diplomacy, soft diplomacy or cultural diplomacy.
In fact it is all these things, and it can truly be said that over the past 40 years, the AJF has contributed much to bringing Australians and Japanese together, providing avenues for our communities to become even more integrated through greater networks, connections and relationships.
Today we have expanding opportunities and deepening partnerships and new generations of Australians and Japanese and need to continue this work of discovering each other.
So forty years on, the Australia-Japan Foundation continues to be a relevant and important investment in the relationship.
Our grants have traditionally covered education, science, sport, media, arts and culture, but AJF’s funding priorities have evolved over this time and have grown in symmetry with the broader growth of the relationship, which for example now includes innovation in medicine, science and other technology areas as well as support for dialogue on regional issues and geopolitics.
Many people present here this evening have been the recipients of grants from the AJF, either individually or the institutions they represent. They have all made significant personal contributions to our bilateral relationship. In this short address mention cannot be made of every individual.
However, one area of which I am particularly proud is the support which the AJF has given to the Reconstruction of the communities in the Tohoku area in Japan that was hit five years ago by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. The AJF continues to provide funding to help restore the communities still recovering from the devastation of that disaster. In that regard I would like to acknowledge two people here tonight: one is a former AJF Board member Melanie Brock for her role in promoting this funding priority area; and to the NSW Fire and Rescue, Assistant Commissioner Robert McNeil who led the Australian rescue team into one of the worst hit areas the day after the tsunami struck.
So with a strong and optimistic outlook for this long-term partnership, I now have great pleasure to invite, The Honourable Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister of Australia, to speak.