Message from Ms Kathy Klugman, High Commissioner of Australia to Sri Lanka on the occasion of Australia Day 2009
Every year on 26 January, Australians at home and around the world celebrate Australia Day. It is a significant date in the Australian calendar and one that provides us - a country of many and varied cultures - an opportunity to reflect upon what it means to be Australian, as well as what we have achieved as a nation. As Australia’s Prime Minister, the Hon Kevin Rudd MP, has said: ‘It is an occasion, more than any other, when we express our national pride in our distinctive landscape, our diverse society and our unique lifestyle.’
Australia and Sri Lanka have shared extensive bilateral relations over many decades. This relationship is based on much more than common membership of the Commonwealth, or a mutual appreciation for cricket. The modern bonds we have built are the sum of many more parts, and include a history of partnership in areas such as migration, education, trade and investment, people-to-people links and development cooperation.
Around 100,000 persons of Sri Lankan origin now live and work in Australia, contributing to all aspects of our society. One notable mention is Professor David de Kretser, a distinguished academic of Sri Lankan birth, who is the current Governor of the state of Victoria. There are many others.
Educational links also continue to play an important role in strengthening bilateral relations, particularly amongst the youth from both Australia and Sri Lanka. Around 5,500 Sri Lankans are currently undertaking studies in Australia, demonstrating both the high quality of Australian educational institutions and the attractiveness of Australia as a place to live and study.
Australia exported goods valued in excess of 13 billion Rupees (or A$180 million) to Sri Lanka in 2007-08. While our exports include traditional food products such as dairy products and vegetables – important as they are in ensuring affordable supplies of quality staple foods - they also include sophisticated Cochlear electronic surgical implants that enable profoundly deaf people to hear, and cutting edge technology in solar power and alternative energy.
Australia has been a reliable development partner virtually since Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948. We remain committed to assisting the economic and social development of Sri Lanka and expect to dedicate over A$27 million in development assistance to various projects in Sri Lanka for 2008/2009.
Finally, on our National Day, let me take this opportunity to wish you all the best for your upcoming celebrations on 4 February. I wish for lasting peace, dignity and prosperity for all Sri Lankans from all communities throughout the island.