Following is a speech (English only) by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Donald Tsang, at the Opening Ceremony of Australian International School today (November 16):
Mr Tweddell, Dr Hooley, Mrs Neilsen, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys,
I suppose the first thing I should say at any gathering that brings together a lot of Australians is: "Gidday!"
Thank you very much for such a warm and entertaining welcome. It is a great pleasure to be here this morning to help celebrate the opening of the new Australian International School campus.
Today's official opening is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication by the Board of Governors, the staff, teachers and parents. You did a great job with limited resources at no less than four sites since the school first opened back in February 1995 with just 25 students. Now you have a magnificent new campus. Well done, all of you, on such a great effort. You have not only done yourselves and the school proud, you have done Hong Kong proud.
I must congratulate the children on such a marvellous and inspiring performance today. When our national anthems were played, and when the Rainbow Serpent and the Lion were dancing together, it was obvious that this project means much more to the Australian and local community than the fantastic facilities we see before us. It is also a symbol of the close ties between Australia and Hong Kong. Looking at all these smiling, young faces I can see that the school community is a genuine and harmonious blend of cultures and nationalities. Hong Kong takes great pride in being a free and open society that welcomes people from all over the world to live and work and contribute to our development as an economy and a society. The Australian International School will no doubt help us enhance that reputation, and help instil in the young people before us the values I have just mentioned. If I can borrow a few words from the Australian national anthem, the school and what it offers will help us to Advance Hong Kong Fair.
Australia and Hong Kong have long and close ties. Australian companies have invested about $80 billion in Hong Kong, while Hong Kong companies have invested about $50 billion in Australia. More than 1,000 Australian companies employ over 200,000 people here in Hong Kong - that's about 6% of our workforce. Our links go beyond trade and business - there are strong bonds of family and friends. Australia is one of the major destinations for Hong Kong migrants, while about 45,000 Australian citizens live in Hong Kong, one of our largest expatriate groups. Last year just over 200,000 Hong Kong people visited Australia, while more than 350,000 Australians came to Hong Kong for holiday, visit friends and relatives or do business. More than 17,000 Hong Kong students are studying in Australia today- the largest group of overseas students. Back here in Hong Kong, about 180 of our Native English-speaking Teachers are Australian. Their expertise and experience is helping us upgrade the English standards of our students and to prepare them for the challenges of the knowledge-based economy of tomorrow.
On top of these links we also share a common belief in, and respect for, pluralism, diversity and tolerance in our societies. The HKSAR Government's policy to encourage and facilitate the establishment of international schools is a good example of those values at work.
The addition of the AIS to Hong Kong's choice of education establishments is helping Hong Kong to meet the challenges of the knowledge-based economy. To succeed in the future we must be able to attract and retain the highest calibre of people, from all around the globe. Naturally, the availability of appropriate schooling is one of the major factors that people look for when deciding whether to relocate overseas to work. International schools such as the AIS play an important role in our education system. They not only meet the education needs of the expatriate community - which in turn helps us to attract talents people from overseas - they also provide a diversity and choice for local students. I was very happy to hear that the AIS has such a good Chinese-language programme for students that starts at the Reception level and carries on through primary and secondary school. Here I would offer a word of advice to students - if you can master English and Chinese then you will have a distinct advantage over other people in the workforce when you leave school.
As a cradle for nurturing young minds, and helping them to reach their full potential, the AIS has certainly got off to a good start. Recent exam results on the core competencies of students have been very encouraging, and would have placed the AIS among the top schools in New South Wales. And I can see today that a tremendous amount of effort is spent on providing children with a well-rounded education that involves a wide range of subjects and extra-curricular activities that stretch both the mind and the body - from art, dance and music through to basketball and netball, rugby and playground cricket.
Ladies and gentlemen, you really do have a great school here. But great facilities don't make a great school - although they certainly help. A great school has heart and spirit. Teachers, students, parents, the Board of Governors all working to get the heart beating strongly and to nurture a spirit of dedication and commitment. It is obvious to me that the AIS has a strong beating heart and a great deal of school spirit. Once again, I congratulate you all on your hard work in turning the AIS dream into a reality and in providing Hong Kong with such an excellent centre for learning and personal development. To the students, cherish your time at the AIS. And when you are a little older, I am sure you will look back on these days with pride and joy. Well done everyone!
Thank you very much.
End/Friday, November 16, 2001