The New Colombo Plan is a signature initiative of the Australian government which aims to lift knowledge of the Indo-Pacific area in Australia by supporting Australian undergraduates to study and undertake internships in the region.
It encourages a two-way flow of students between Australia and the rest of the region, complementing the thousands of students coming to Australia to study each year.
The reception was attended by Speaker of the Parliament Niki Rattle, New Zealand’s High Commissioner to the Cook Islands Peter Marshall, Health secretary Dr Aumea Herman, Education secretary Danielle Cochrane, Culture secretary Anthony Turua and other invited guests.
The event was also attended by the eight Australian nursing students who are in Rarotonga on an educational exchange programme.
Kirsty Michel, the first secretary of the Australian High Commission in New Zealand, said the New Colombo Plan and Australian Awards were the two flagship scholarships and educational exchange programmes that the Australian government runs.
“It’s really both a short and a long term investment so there is a very practical element to the New Colombo Plan in terms of group coming here and learning together and exchanging,” she said.
“There is also a long term plan as well because I think we understand as well as the kind of political and policy engagement we have as countries, it’s the relationship with its people overtime that really form the balance to the relationship.
“We have more than 20,000 people in Australia who identify as being of Cook Islands heritage and we have a small but vibrant Australian community here and obviously lots of tourist as well, but this education exchange is just another string to the bow.”
Michel said the Australian government valued its relationship with the Cook Islands and the relationship that was built in the New Colombo Plan.
“We’re just really delighted to be here at the same time as this group so we can take a moment to celebrate those relationships.”
Health secretary Dr Herman said the ministry was pleased to host the Australian student nurses and thanked both the Australian and New Zealand High Commissions for their support in health and other areas.