Nearly thirty years ago, as a newly minted graduate, I was in Hong Kong to study North East Asian perceptions of Australia as a manufacturing nation.
As a Royce scholar inspired by Ross Garnaut’s North East Asian Ascendancy, I travelled to Hong Kong, China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea to interview officials, business people and journalists on their views of Australia beyond the “quarry and the farm”.
Then, Australia was keen to promote itself as not just a producer of minerals and meat, but a source of “simply and elaborately transformed manufactures.” Then, the concept of Australia as a source of services and innovation was just in its infancy.
I stayed with a family friend who had a young, but thriving business connecting Hong Kong students to Australian secondary schools.
Today, education is one of the anchors of the bilateral relationship. In 2016, there were 119 formal agreements on education between Australia and Hong Kong, covering student and staff exchanges, academic and research collaborations and studies abroad.
Around 120,000 students from Hong Kong have gained qualifications from Australian universities. And in 2015 and 2016, Hong Kong ranked 10th as a source country for international students to Australia.
And while we’re still a farm – and proud of that – our products now include high-quality food and beverages for Hong Kong's hotel and restaurant sector, such as wines, fresh and chilled seafood, premium fruit, nuts, vegetables and dairy products.
And our STMs and ETMs are now telecommunications equipments and parts and services, with Hong Kong now Australia’s seventh largest services market.
Happy 30th Birthday Auscham. What began as a bright idea over lunch 30 years ago has become a powerhouse of Australian talent across every sector.
And with 100,000 Australians living in Hong Kong, the next 30 years only promise to be brighter.