"It is an honour and a great pleasure to be here this afternoon to share this important occasion to witness the graduation of our 98 talented women and men. On behalf of the Government of Vanuatu I am also honoured to be delivering the keynote address at today’s ceremony. Firstly, let me extend my congratulations to all the graduands here. You have done exceptionally well and you deserve to celebrate. I also wish to acknowledge viewers who have joined us via the livestream of this ceremony on Facebook. This is indeed a joyous occasion and very different to the one I visited two weeks ago in Ambae, where our people are being evacauated due to a likely volcanic eruption. My Government will do everything possible in the best interests of all those affected.The graduating students have completed various different programs – 11 in total – ranging from Carpentry to Commercial Cookery to Hospitality and Tourism. The upskilling of our people is vital, and fits in with the Vanuatu Government’s vision for providing every young person with the lifelong skills, values, and confidence to be self-reliant. I am pleased that the Australia-Pacific Technical College (APTC) is helping contribute to the human resource development of Vanuatu by providing relevant and quality Australian standard skills training. 

 

I am proud to hear that majority of the graduands here today are women. This is a tremendous achievement and certainly inspiring to see more Vanuatu women take up careers in the technical and vocational education and training. I’m sure you will inspire more women to pursue further studies.

The Vanuatu Government recognises that gender equality is a fundamental right of its people and this is captured in the National Gender Equality Policy 2015-2019.  We strongly believe that gender equality and women’s empowerment is critical to the success of the national development vision of ‘A Just, Educated, Healthy and Wealthy Vanuatu’.

Also worth mentioning is that today’s ceremony includes the first cohort of students who have completed APTC’s Certificate III in Education Support program. The program is designed to upskill teaching aides and training assistants to support and boost inclusive education, which is very much aligned to Vanuatu’s Ministry of Education and Trainings objective to mainstream inclusive education across all teaching service sectors by 2020.

 10-Year Anniversary/ APTC contributions

Today’s event is a double celebration. It is not only a special day for the graduands, but this year also marks APTC’s 10 Year Anniversary.

Ten years ago, the idea of establishing APTC was announced by the then Australian Prime Minister, Honourable John Howard at the Pacific Islands Forum. This idea was welcomed by Pacific Island Countries including Vanuatu.This vision by the Australian Government has truly made a difference not only in the lives of people in Vanuatu but around the region. Today, APTC has flourished into a centre of training excellence, delivering Australian standard skills and qualifications for a range of vocational occupations needed throughout the Pacific.

I am honoured to announce that after presentation of awards, the new graduates will join over 11,000 Pacific women and men who are contributing to the development of their countries. Indeed, this is a milestone achievement for the College.

As part of the anniversary celebration, APTC has produced a collection of graduate stories from Vanuatu on how APTC training has impacted their lives. If you get the opportunity, I urge you all to read a copy. You can get a copy at the campus or you can access it online on APTC’s website. 

On behalf of the people and Government of Vanuatu, I extend my congratulations to APTC for reaching 10 years in the Pacific and I also wish to thank the Australian Government for its ongoing support to the education of Pacific people.

APTC continues to provide opportunities for our women and men to gain internationally recognised qualifications. Over the last decade, over 1600 Vanuatu nationals have graduated from APTC, including over 900 women. I wish to thank the hardworking staff of APTC for their efforts in training our people.

APTC has built on existing strengths within the region, working closely with other education providers. Here in Vanuatu, APTC works very closely with the Vanuatu Institute of Technology (VIT). The newly refurbished Nambaga Restaurant and Kitchen facilities that is shared by both institutions is a great initiative as it assures that our cookery and hospitality students are immersed in a world of learning that is similar to what they will experience in the workforce. 

It is pleasing to see that APTC is responsive to existing and future training needs in Vanuatu. APTC’s Certificate IV in Training and Assessment program is helping help national trainers develop quality training delivery approach and skills that meet the requirements of the Vanuatu Qualifications Authority.

The contributions of APTC do not end there. With support from the Australian Government, APTC is contributing towards the skills development of 18 emerging leaders from the Vanuatu Law and Justice sector through its Certificate IV in Leadership and Management program. I have always been an avid supporter of providing the right leadership and management skills to our future leaders to enable them to make sound decisions for a better tomorrow.   

 Australia – Vanuatu Partnership

The Government of Vanuatu appreciates its long standing relationship with Australia. Australia supported Vanuatu’s independence in 1980 and remains one of our closest partners.

Australia has longstanding ties with my government, and we continue to cooperate closely even at the international level as fellow members of the United Nations, the Pacific Islands Forum, and most recently the World Trade Organisation.

I wish to highlight the Australia-Vanuatu Aid Partnership Arrangement 2016-2019, which builds on our existing relationship. Through this partnership, we hope to jointly address barriers to economic growth, reduce poverty and encourage private sector and human development in Vanuatu. 

We are also grateful for Australia’s support for strengthening the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector in Vanuatu through the Skills for Economic Growth program which is working with our Ministry of Education and Training and provincial governments to coordinate and facilitate the delivery of targeted skills training services in communities. This will enable far more Vanuatu citizens to gain skills for meaningful employment that can lead to improve lives. 

The Vanuatu Government is working very closely with the Australian Government in the implementation of ongoing recovery and reconstruction efforts following Tropical Cyclone Pam in 2015. Cyclone Pam is regarded as one of the worst natural disasters in the history of our country. Despite our challenges, I am grateful for the support of the Australian Government in helping us build conditions for economic recovery and a return to sustainable development.

I also wish to thank the Australian Government for its ongoing support towards the recovery efforts Another great initiative is Australia’s Seasonal Worker Program. This program is providing valuable opportunities for Pacific Islanders including Vanuatu citizens to secure short-term employment in Australia while also helping Australian employers fill labour force shortage gaps.

You can read about some of the successful Vanuatu citizens who graduated from APTC and worked in Australia through this program in APTC’s Impact Stories publication.

 

Concluding Remarks

Finally, let me once again congratulate our graduands. I wish you every happiness in your well-earned achievement and I hope that you will each rightly celebrate in your own style.

As new graduates, I urge you to stay connected with APTC. You join the ranks of many esteemed alumni before you. Many are in positions of influence and are helping shape the future direction of the region. For many of you, your study path may not have been an easy one. I applaud you for making the decision to get skilled, and that too, from an institution as reputable as the Australia-Pacific Technical College.

 

In making the decision to pursue a new skill, you have opened up a door to a whole new world of opportunity. Today, we celebrate a beginning or start.  Your learning journey does not end here. As someone who believes in lifelong learning, it is my hope that this is only the beginning of your education journey. As you leave here today to turn your hard work and your dreams into reality, I hope you never lose the will to learn. You reached one goal here this afternoon when you earned your qualification, but remember this is an intermediate goal that has prepared you to take another step forward.

 

I challenge you to take what you have learned and to go out from this place with passion and with a driven determination to use your knowledge and your skills to make a difference. Share what you have learned so others in your workplaces and communities can benefit.

Most importantly, graduands, make the best use of your new skills to help build our beloved nation. It is not only mine but also your responsibility to work together for the development of Vanuatu. I have confidence that you all will be great ambassadors of APTC and role models for your country. 

On behalf of the Government of Vanuatu, I would like to extend my appreciation again to the Australian Government and to APTC for your contribution to the people of Vanuatu.

It has been an honour to be with you all on this very special occasion. I wish everyone all the best. Thank you".

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