Remarks to the Australia-Japan Goodwill Dinner
FRI 22 APRIL 2011
Ladies and Gentlemen
I want to begin by thanking you all for being present tonight.
Each of you who has chosen to be here represents a point of light.
You embody a message of reassurance and hope.
Of fellow-feeling and shared concern.
Tonight I bring the goodwill and best wishes of the entire Australian community.
United as one in support of a great nation and a great people.
Tonight is a moment for reflection.
An occasion that makes us realise how the worst of times can bring out the best in people.
That is something we have seen throughout the Asia-Pacific region these past months, in flood-stricken Australia or earthquake-devastated Christchurch, and then, when disaster struck Japan.
To say that the earthquake and tsunami shocked the world is an understatement.
The scale of damage and loss is still being calculated.
But Prime Minister Kan’s assessment that this is the worst crisis facing Japan in 65 years is surely correct.
The test of any nation is not how much it suffers, but how it responds in adversity.
Despite the enormity of this heartbreaking event, the Japanese people have shown amazing grace and resilience.
The Japanese are a people of stoicism and strength.
And in Australia, we watched with admiration as Japanese society drew together in an embrace of compassion and concern the very same concern that Japan showed Australia after the Victorian bushfires and the Queensland floods.
Tonight, we return the favour.
We say again to our Japanese friends, as we said on the day the earthquake and tsunami struck, that you will not face this crisis alone.
And you have not.
Australia was among the first to come to Japan’s aid.
Our relationship transcends trade and security ties.
We have forged lasting human bonds through tourism, migration, sister-city relationships, education exchange and a shared vision for peace and prosperity in our region.
That is why within 48 hours of the quake, the Australian Government deployed a team of more than 70 search and rescue specialists including search dogs, an officer from my own department, Emergency Management Australia workers and diplomats from our Embassy in Tokyo, to the town that became the face of this disaster, Minami Sanriku, a town that virtually ceased to exist after the tsunami.
The Australian Government also sent a team of Defence personnel and an Australian C-17 aircraft which flew round-the-clock missions in cooperation with the Japanese and US governments.
Two more C-17 aircraft delivered vital pumping equipment to the Fukushima nuclear power plant to bolster efforts to stabilise the reactors.
This meant that at one point, all of Australia’s active military heavy airlift capacity was devoted to assisting Japan with the disaster.
These Aussies did an amazing job under the worst of circumstances.
In a parting gesture of friendship, the Aussie Urban Search and Rescue team left their equipment behind to aid in the continued recovery effort.
The Australian Government has also directly contributed humanitarian assistance to Japan, donating 10 million Australian dollars to the Japan Red Cross and Pacific Disaster Appeal and Australians, individuals and companies are sending support to their Japanese friends as well.
The Australian embassy staff in Japan, including those who flew in from around the world to assist have done the most outstanding job in the most demanding and traumatic of circumstances. I want to acknowledge them and their work tonight and to pay particular tribute to our Ambassador Murray McLean.
Of course, the Australian community in Japan has also been a source of great support to their new friends and neighbours.
I specifically want to thank Meat and Livestock Australia, represented here by Melanie Brock, for all their work in providing food supplies to displaced people, including to Minami Sanriku, which I will visit tomorrow.
They are also providing the Aussie beef for this evening.
I thank them and the many other Australians here for being great ambassadors for our country.
The mutual affinity between Australians and Japanese is at the core of our ties.
And that means we have a very natural and clear desire to help each other in times of trouble.
This is what I call genuine goodwill and friendship.
Friendship for the tough times as well as the good times.
Friendship that brings us together across cultures and across traditions.
Friends, one of the ways in which Australia and Japan have developed common bonds is through the education links between our two countries.
I am very pleased to be able to say that Japanese schools have more student exchanges with schools in Australia than with any other country.
Around 72,000 Japanese students visit Australia every year as part of their studies.
And Japanese remains the most widely taught language in Australian schools.
So I can think of no better area than education in which Australia can make a further small but heartfelt contribution to Japan’s recovery.
That’s why tonight I am pleased to announce a new program to help university students, academics and professionals from those areas most affected by this terrible disaster to spend some time in Australia.
The program will help fund travel, accommodation and tuition costs associated with living and studying in our country.
In doing so, we hope to play a small part in the rebuilding of lives and communities.
Australia also has a long tradition of student exchange with Japan.
Therefore the program will also encourage Australians to come here and study alongside Japanese colleagues from communities hit by the earthquake and tsunami to share the resilience of the Japanese people and to see this beautiful land for themselves.
I am also pleased to announce tonight an ongoing program of 10 Endeavour Scholarships each year for Japan.
These scholarships will support study, research or professional development.
And in their first year, we hope to target these scholarships in particular to students and institutions in earthquake and tsunami-hit areas.
Finally, many Australians who first came to Japan as school students later return to teach English under the Japan Exchange and Teaching or JET program.
Such exchanges help build strong and enduring bonds of friendship and collaboration.
That is why I am pleased to announce tonight that the Australian Government is commencing a feasibility study on a similar exchange so young people from Japan can live in Australia and teach Japanese in our schools:
Another way to demonstrate friendship and understanding.
Friends, the Japanese people have amazed the world with their dignity and courage.
Events like this remind them that they will not face the journey to recovery alone.
I know the generosity displayed here tonight – by Australians, Japanese and other friends alike – will underscore the message even more firmly.
Through our donations.
Through our thoughts and prayers.
Through our shared resolve.
Australia stands with you:
Determined to help you recover.
Determined to help you rebuild.
Confident that Japan will rise again – even stronger than before.