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Australia and Bhutan celebrate 15 years of diplomatic relations

The Australian Ambassador, Ms Harinder Sidhu, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Lyonpo Damcho Dorji,
launches the alumni message book titled, “An alumni perspective – Celebrating 15 years of Bhutan-Australia diplomatic relations”

The Australia Awards South and West Asia Program has been recognised by Australia’s Ambassador to Bhutan, Harinder Sidhu, as having a key role in strengthening diplomatic ties between Australia and Bhutan, as the two nations celebrated 15 years of formal diplomatic relations. In her Keynote Address on Australia-Bhutan Education Partnership, Ambassador Sidhu said that the Program has contributed to Bhutan’s national development in ways that could never have been anticipated. 

“We are incredibly proud of our alumni,” she said. “Our alumni are doctors, politicians, judges and teachers. They are also leaders in many aspects of business and civil society.”

She spoke about the power of education, saying that it can contribute directly to poverty reduction, economic growth and stability.

“An education benefits not only the individual, but their community and their nation,” she said.

Senior Bhutanese government officials, Australia Awards alumni, and staff and volunteers from the Australian Volunteers program came together for the event held at the Royal University of Bhutan on 21 November to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The event coincided with a two-day pre-departure briefing held for the 28 Bhutanese awardees who will commence their studies in Australia in 2018.

Tony Crooks, Team Leader of the Australia Awards South and West Asia Program, said that the main objective of the Program is to contribute to Bhutan’s national development and to strengthen the linkages between the two countries.

“The Australia Awards are scholarships granted as Australia’s long-term commitment to Bhutan,” he told the awardees during the briefing.

The official farewell for the awardees was held on 22 November, hosted by Ambassador Sidhu. It was also an opportunity to farewell the 15 Australian students who recently completed their studies in Bhutan as part of the Australian Government’s Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships program. 

The event was attended by members of the Royal Government of Bhutan, including the Chairman of the Royal Civil Service Commission and the Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources, staff and volunteers from the Australian Volunteers program, and members of the Australia Awards South and West Asia Women in Leadership Network (WILN).

During the event, Ambassador Sidhu officially opened the local chapter of the WILN, a network of Australia Awards alumni which promotes the program to potential female applicants and supports female recipients to pursue their studies and achieve success in their respective fields.

The WILN Bhutan chapter will support Bhutanese women’s leadership at the local and regional levels, working towards building their professional leadership, capacity and capability to achieve long-term sustainable development in Bhutan and the region.

A new book celebrating the achievements and contributions of Bhutanese Australia Awards alumni was also launched on 21 November by Ambassador Sidhu and the Bhutanese Foreign Minister, Lyonpo Damcho Dorji.

An Alumni Perspective – Celebrating 15 years of Bhutan-Australian diplomatic relations contains the stories of 15 alumni from a range of sectors. The stories look at how studying in Australia as part of the Australia Awards South and West Asia program shaped each student’s personal and professional journey, and enabled them to return to Bhutan upon completion of the program to make positive contributions to their country’s development.

Australia Awards South and West Asia is managed by Scope Global on behalf of the Australian Government.

Pre-departure Briefing (21-22 Nov 2017)
Alumni Book Launch (22 Nov 2017)
Farewell Event for intake 2018 awardees (22 Nov 2017)
Launch of the WiLN Bhutan Chapter (22 Nov 2017)