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26 August 2022: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

25 Aug 2022
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Wong and Conroy announce additional support for Sri Lanka, Australia-Pacific Cricket Linkages Program, Watts’ Roundtable on Asian Literacy and Skills, and more.

On 19 August, Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy jointly announced that Australia will provide an additional $25 million to help Sri Lanka meet urgent food and healthcare needs, as it confronts its “worst economic crisis in 70 years”. The Ministers noted that “Australia stands with the people of Sri Lanka, especially those experiencing severe hardship.” The additional humanitarian assistance is on top of the $23 million in ongoing development assistance to Sri Lanka in 2022-23. The Ministers further stated that “Australia’s continued assistance to Sri Lanka supports our mutual interest in a secure and resilient Indian Ocean and reinforces our 75 year-strong relationship build on cooperation and community connection.”

Conroy also issued a statement on 22 August announcing the Australia-Pacific Cricket Linkages Program, which the Australian Government will develop in partnership with Cricket Australia, as well as the Vanuatu Cricket Association and Cricket Papua New Guinea. The Program will be funded under PacificAus Sports and “will facilitate access to elite competitions for Pacific athletes, support pathway programs and offer opportunities to strengthen ties between First Nations and the Pacific family.” It will also allow Pacific cricketers to access “Australia’s high-performance coaching, training and development pathways to take their performances to the next level.” In addition, Papua New Guinea’s national women’s and men’s cricket squads will also compete in Australian competitions under the program, including the Top End T20 and the Australian Country Cricket Championships.

On 22 August, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts hosted a Roundtable on Asian Literacy and Skills, to inform the upcoming Jobs and Skills Summit next week. Watts noted that the Roundtable explored “the knowledge, skills and attributes needed to transform Australia’s economicand people-to-people links in Asia.” He further stated that “Asia’s rapid economic growth trajectory is estimated to account for over half of global GDP by 2030” and that “equipping our businesses and community with Asian literacy and skills will ensure we are part of this success story.” Watts noted that “the Australian Government is committed to deeper engagement with Asia, which must be supported by strong language skills and real cultural understanding.” However, the study of “key Asian languages at the high school level is the lowest it’s been in a decade, and the proportion of Australian university students studying an Asian language has fallen by 43 per cent since 2010.” He further noted that “research has also shown low levels of Asia capability on boards and senior leadership teams in Australia’s biggest companies,” and argued that “we must harness the diversity of modern Australia and better utilise the skills and expertise of Asian-Australian communities.”

Minister for Immigration Andrew Giles announced an additional $550,000 in funding for the Ukrainian-Australian community on 19 August. This funding supplements $450,000 previously provided to the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations, and is part of “the Australian Government’s ongoing commitment to support displaced Ukrainians and their immediate family members.” Giles stated that “this additional funding will enable community organisations to effectively respond to the ongoing needs of Ukrainians seeking safety” and that it “will help ensure that the Ukrainian cohort can continue to find safety in the Australian community for as long as they need.”

Isabella Keith is a weekly columnist for Australian Outlook. She is also an undergraduate student at the Australian National University studying Law and Politics, Philosophy and Economics. Isabella’s research interests include international law and comparative constitutional law.

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