Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, was in Santiago on Saturday, meeting with Chilean Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno and President Sebastián Piñera.
Two agreements were signed between Chile and Australia concerning cooperation in emergency management and environmental protection of the Pacific Ocean. Rudd also made mention of existing agreements on student exchanges and mining cooperation, which would be further expanded.
At the Mercosur meeting in Iguaçu Falls on Dec.16, Rudd had committed Australia to greater development cooperation in the region.
Later, in an address at the Alberto Hurtado University on Saturday attended by students and members of the diplomatic community, the Foreign Minister spoke of Australia’s deepening engagement with Latin America.
“Chile presents itself to us as a door to the region,” he said.
Rudd took the opportunity to announce the launch of the Australia-Americas Awards, a new scholarship program offering 200 scholarships over four years to students in the region.
“There are few greater human bonds than learning together; the shared experiences; the common passion for knowledge; the things that unite humanity, rather than divide us, by building bridges between different cultures,” Rudd said.
“Education is one very important plank in the Australian Government’s increased engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean”.
Indigenous issues in Chile and Australia were also highlighted as an area for future cooperation between both countries.
“The mark of decent societies across the world is those who give voice to the voiceless. And that begins with the indigenous peoples of the world – often the most voiceless of them all,” he said.
The Foreign Minister also indicated there will be a further expansion of Australia’s diplomatic and consular missions in Latin America, with the re-opening of the embassy in Peru and further staff to be sent to missions in Mexico and Brazil.
After visiting the offices occupied by former Chilean president Salvador Allende at La Moneda Presidential Palace, the Foreign Minister described his trip as a “personal and political pilgrimage” as Allende had been an inspiration to him during his university years.
Kevin Rudd was Australia’s prime minister from 2007 until June this year, when he was forced to stand down as leader of the centre-left Labour Party, paving the way for Julia Gillard to become Australia’s first female Prime Minister.
He was handed the foreign affairs portfolio following the Labor Party’s narrow win in August’s federal election.
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