Message from the Australian High Commissioner to Bangladesh26 January 2021
Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Scott Morrison, MP (L), Jeremy Bruer, Australian High Commissioner (R)
This past year has given us much to reflect on. As the world continues to face challenges unlike any most of us have seen, Australia Day is a time to celebrate hope and solidarity. Ourspirit of togetherness gives usstrength to continue to see a positive future. This year, as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be felt around the world, we come together in spirit instead of in person to celebrate Australia Day.
Australia is an outward-looking country, strongly connected to the rest of the world. It is also the most successful multicultural society in the world, a country built on migration. Our people come from 200 countries; we have operated a permanent resettlement program since 1947.And, as a multi-cultural country, Australia has benefited from its beliefin diversity, inclusion and tolerance -values we hold dear.
For more than 60,000 years, Australia was cared for by the Aboriginal people, one of the oldest continuing cultures on earth.Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the traditional custodians of our lands and waterways. They occupy a fundamental positionin the great Australian story. For many indigenous Australians, Australia Day represents the complexities and hardship caused by European settlement. We recognise this history, and respect and honour our first Australians on our national day.
Australia and Bangladesh are old friends, sharing Commonwealth traditions and strong links. As we approach the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh's independence and, in 2022, 50 years ofdiplomatic relations between our two countries, it is worth recalling that Australia was thefirst Western country to recognise Bangladesh after it achieved its independence in 1972.
Through our diplomats, and with bipartisan support in our parliament, Australia assisted Bangladesh's admission to the United Nations in December 1971. In January 1975,our then prime minister, Gough Whitlam, visited Bangladesh and met his Bangladeshi counterpart, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Father of the Nation.
Our friendship will endure because of its strong and authentic foundation. The only foreigner ever to have received the Bir Protik - one of Bangladesh's highest awards for bravery - was an Australian citizen, William Ouderland. Ouderland organised and trained the guerrilla fighters of the Mukati Bahini and provided them with food and shelter and medicine.
Australia and Bangladesh have very close people-to-people links, nurtured over many years of migration, and through sporting links and education.About50,000 people of Bangladeshi origin have settled in Australia, and wehave welcomed thousands of Bangladeshi students studying in Australia's world class institutions. Our Australia Awards program, providing scholarships for Bangladeshi students to undertake master's degrees in Australia, is wellregarded and has produced over 3,000 alumni across a broad range of fields in Bangladesh.
Australia and Bangladesh are both active members ofmultilateral institutionssuch as the UN, WTO, the Commonwealth and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), the only ministerial-level forum in the Indian Ocean. Australia looks forward to supporting Bangladesh strongly as it prepares to become IORA chair in 2021. We remain committed to the aims and purposes of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to the ongoing promotion and protection of human rights.
The Australian Government's recentlyreleaseddevelopment strategy, Partnerships for Recovery, outlines how Australia will work with its partners around the world to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Australia's COVID-19 Development Response Plan will guide Australia's response to COVID-19 in Bangladesh for 2020 to 2021. Under the plan, Australia is working in partnership with Bangladesh to support inclusive economic growth, committing an estimated AUD70.1 million in development assistance in 2019-20 towards education, gender equality, social protection and skills development
Humanitarian assistance for Rohingya refugees and the host community in Cox's Bazar remains a priority for Australia. Australia recognises Bangladesh's generosity of in hosting over 800,000 Rohingya. We have been actively supporting the needs of those people affected by the Rohingya crisis, including in the host community, providing over AUD260 million in humanitarian assistance since August 2017. Australia will continue to work to find a durable solution and to pursue accountability and justice for the Rohingyaas a result of the abuses they have suffered.
Trade between Australia and Bangladesh has grown by 550 per cent over the last decade. Our two-way trade in goods and services was worth nearly AUD2.5 billion in 2018-19. We want to see that mutually beneficial trade continue to grow as our economies recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our defence relationship has been expanding, through visits to Australia by key defence personnel and training cooperation. We look forward to increasing these exchanges as COVID-19 travel restrictions allow. Australia was pleased to support the Bangladesh Armed Forces in their role on the frontline of COVID-19 response through donation of five tonnes of personal protective equipment (PPE). We are also cooperating on Women, Peace and Security, a priority for both countries.
Our nations also share a love of sport, especially cricket, and many Australians have played with, trained, coached and befriendedBangladeshi players. Our cooperation in arts and culture is also growing, with participation by Australian artists in arts and literary events in Bangladesh, and by Bangladeshis in Australian events.
We are proud of our shared history and of the warm, multifaceted and mutually beneficial relationship that exists between our two countries.As we prepare to celebrate significant milestones in our relationship, Australia looks forward to being a friend to Bangladesh for many years to come.
Australian High Commissioner to Bangladesh