Australian Ambassador Robyn Mudie: Vietnam is my home away from home, so it will be difficult to say goodbye...
|Australian Ambassador to Vietnam Robyn Mudie. (Photo: Tuan Anh)|
In an interview with The World and Viet Nam Report before concluding her term as Ambassador to Vietnam, H.E. Ms. Robyn Mudie highlighted the impressive development of Vietnam-Australia bilateral relations in recent years despite the pandemic context, and shared her feelings for the country and Vietnamese people.
Your Excellency, could you share some impressions on developments of Vietnam-Australia bilateral relations in recent years?
Australia and Vietnam’s bilateral relationship has gone from strength to strength in recent years. Despite the difficulties imposed by COVID-19, we have continued to witness strong momentum across the breadth of our Strategic Partnership.
We have concluded landmark agreements to expand our economic relationship, most notably the Enhanced Economic Engagement Strategy (EEES), which provides a blueprint for unlocking significant opportunities for businesses in both our countries.
We have also continued to expand our defence and security cooperation and have worked closely together to support our shared interests in an open, secure and resilient region, including through close cooperation in ASEAN-led forums and other multilateral bodies.
As we prepare to mark the fiftieth anniversary of diplomatic relations next year, our relationship is at the strongest point in history, and there remains significant scope and commitment to continue deepening our bilateral cooperation and elevating our relationship further.
|Ambassador Robyn Mudie is proud that Australia has been able to assist Vietnam in its fight against COVID-19. (Photo: Australian Embassy in Vietnam)|
While there have been many highlights that demonstrate the strong growth in our partnership, I believe that it is the assistance we have been able to render one another during our fight against COVID-19 that best exemplifies the current state of our relationship.
Australia has now shared more than 22.2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with Vietnam, which includes 14.4 million doses we have recently delivered to support Vietnam’s paediatric vaccination campaign. This is a significant contribution to Vietnam’s national vaccination program and I am delighted that Australia has been able to assist Vietnam in its fight against COVID-19.
Access to safe and effective vaccines is critical for the health of our communities, boosting economic recovery and ending the pandemic. Australia is proud to be a strong supporter of Vietnam’s vaccine rollout and will continue to work closely with Vietnam and other regional partners in our shared recovery from the pandemic.
|Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son presented the Friendship Medal to Australian Ambassador to Viet Nam Robyn Mudie in a ceremony held in Hanoi on June 9. (Photo: Tuan Anh)|
Having lived here for the past 3 years, how do you feel about Vietnam? What will you miss the most in this country when you return to your homeland?
I am privileged to have had a long personal and professional association with Vietnam over the course of my career, and it is a country that is very close to my heart. I was posted here from 1993-95 on my first overseas assignment, and it is where I learnt many important lessons about international diplomacy.
I was delighted to be able to return to Vietnam as Ambassador in 2019 and discover more about this fascinating country and to reconnect with the many of my colleagues and friends I met during my earlier posting.
I have always thought of Vietnam as my home away from home, so it will be difficult for me to say goodbye and leave again, but I am sure that I will continue to have a special connection with this amazing country.
|"The sights and sounds on the streets of Hanoi left a deep impression on me during my first posting here in the 1990s, and I continue to find this one of the most delightful aspects of life here today".|
There will be many things that I will miss when I conclude my term as Ambassador here shortly and return to Australia. One of my favourite pastimes in Hanoi has been riding my bike around town and discovering new places and things to do. Hanoi is such an amazing and dynamic city.
The sights and sounds on the streets of Hanoi left a deep impression on me during my first posting here in the 1990s, and I continue to find this one of the most delightful aspects of life here today. Although there are certainly a lot more cars and motorbikes on the road than when I was here previously, Hanoi remains a wonderful city to explore by bike.
Of course, I also must mention the food! I simply love Vietnamese cuisine, and I will miss being able to walk just a few short steps from my house to eat at streetside restaurants.
We are very fortunate in Australia to have an abundance of excellent Vietnamese restaurants, but there is nothing quite like enjoying a nice steaming bowl of pho ga or bun rieu at one of the stalls near my home on a cold winter morning in Hanoi, or an icy café sua da to cool down on a hot afternoon.
|Ms. Robyn Mudie during her first working term in Vietnam in 1994. (Photo: Australian Embassy in Vietnam)|
During your time in Vietnam, you supported vulnerable groups, specifically women and children, through many programs and projects. Among those, what was your most memorable project?
At the Embassy, we have a diverse portfolio of programs that support Vietnam, particularly women and vulnerable groups of the community. Some are focused on encouraging business opportunities for women and providing skills and experience they need to be leaders in their chosen field, and others are specifically designed to address socio-economic disadvantages.
There are two initiatives in particular that come to mind with your question. The first is our flagship women’s economic empowerment program in Lao Cai and Son La provinces. The GREAT program, which stands for Gender Responsive Equitable Agriculture and Tourism, is personally significant for me since it is all about potential and promise, and empowering women to take on leadership roles in their businesses and communities.
GREAT works closely with women from a range of ethnic minority groups to support their businesses to thrive. While we know that remote communities in Vietnam face challenges in terms of distance to services and resources, this program harnesses the communities natural attributes in agriculture and tourism, and the capacity and resourcefulness of the women themselves.
In the matter of a few years, we have seen local businesses run by women thrive - ranging from bamboo shoot production to medicinal herbs. We are also exceedingly proud of the partnership we have forged with Lao Cai college where we have supported women from the region to graduate with culinary and hospitality qualifications.
I feel very fortunate that, while COVID-19 restrictions were a feature for much of my time in Vietnam, I was able to visit the beautiful north west, and meet many of the entrepreneurial women we are supporting. I wish them great success as the tourism market opens up again.
The second initiative which I feel enormously proud of is the Equity of Access scheme under our Australia Awards Scholarships. This Equity of Access scheme supports Vietnamese women and men with a disability or from rural disadvantaged regions to undertake postgraduate study in Australia.
Scholarships are awarded on the basis of merit, but we know that extra assistance can make all of the difference for people to have the means to apply and sustain themselves while in Australia. This includes funding for assistive devices such as computer screen readers, for access to upgraded wheelchairs, and for sight guides and carers to accompany scholars. It is a thoughtfully conceived scheme.
Each year, around 20 percent of our scholars are supported by the scheme. In 2019 alone, 9 of 50 scholarships were men and women with disabilities. This initiative also paves paths for others to follow their dreams and become leaders in their field.
Thank you Ambassador!
|Australian Ambassador Robyn Mudie visits projects in Ta Phin Commune, Sapa Town, Lao Cai Province. (Photo: Australian Embassy in Vietnam)|