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Transcript 15976

Remarks at Banda Aceh

Photo of Rudd, Kevin

Rudd, Kevin

Period of Service: 03/12/2007 to 24/06/2010

More information about Rudd, Kevin on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 14/06/2008

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 15976

I first visited here only a few weeks after the tsunami. And, it is difficult not to remember the terrible scenes of that time.

I remember seeing so many people's lives tragically affected. So much destruction, so much devastation, so much sadness. So when I come back here, I feel very much as if we are on sacred ground.

Sacred ground because more than 150,000 innocent men, women and children lost their lives by this terrible act of nature. Sacred ground also because those of us who came from Australia to help also saw the loss of some of our own lives.

So, for us, this is sacred ground too because nine of our own - members of the Australian Defence Force, working here to help our friends in Indonesia - lost their own lives. We honour their service and their sacrifice.

What is extraordinary in the intervening three years and more is how this great community in Aceh, and this great country Indonesia, have responded to this devastation.

Not just in the extraordinary act of rebuilding this community, but also, in seeking the opportunity created by the devastation of the tsunami to heal the wounds of the past in the civil conflict which had racked this place, Aceh, for so many years.

Physical wounds being healed. Political wounds being healed. It is a great testament to the people of Aceh and Indonesia that you have done this with such great success.

We in Australia have tried to play our part in the rebuilding of this beautiful part of Indonesia. And today I would publicly honour the role played by former Prime Minister John Howard in his right decision to contribute $1 billion for a reconstruction package for Indonesia, and for his decision to allocate a quarter of a billion dollars to this province of Aceh. And to dedicate so much of that money to the building of schools like this one.

Prime Minister Howard's decision to support the rebuilding of this community was the right decision. The right decision for Australia. The right decision for Indonesia. And the right decision for Aceh. And I thank him for it publicly.

Which brings us to this beautiful school at Ulee Lheue. This school says so much in its own way about the impact of the tsunami.

Of its 312 students, 297 were killed. Of its teachers, most were killed. I think 17. This is unimaginable in any local community for that to have happened. But now, you have rebuilt. And I salute the courage of this community for having rebuilt this school.

And across Aceh, more than one in ten teachers lost their lives and across Aceh 38,000 school students lost their lives. For us, unimaginable. And I salute the people of Aceh for having rebuilt their communities and their schools across this land here.

Australia has contributed some quarter of a billion dollars to the reconstruction of Aceh. $51 million for the restoration of education here in Aceh. And we're visiting one such school today. And we are very pleased to be here.

What we have through our friends in Indonesia have been able to fund is the reconstruction of 18 education facilities in tsunami affected areas. 43 primary schools in conflict affected areas. And trained more than 4,100 education officials, teachers, and school community members.

This is our small contribution to try and help rebuild this community.

And so, when I visited the classroom before with Therese and with the Governor and the other officials from the administration here in Banda Aceh, and to see the smiles on the young students faces, and to know that they are at a school which we have helped to rebuild, and helped to support, it makes every Australian heart glad.

For the future Australia also intends to be long term partners with the people of Aceh and its community here in Banda Aceh for the long term economic development of this part of Indonesia.

It's very much a practical example which I think speaks to the world at large about what a country like Australia, a western country, predominantly Christian, can do in partnership with our friends here in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world. A product of the respect that we have for each other.

So, could I thank all of our friends here in Banda Aceh. Those from the Government, those from the education sector, those from this school. All those who have been part of the building process.

Also, the Australian Government officials. In particular, those from the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, and the AusAid officials who have been here working from the beginning to help ensure that this project succeeded.

And so it is with great pleasure that I am able to be here today on behalf of the Government and the people of Australia to participate in this official inauguration of the Ulee Lheue State Islamic Primary School. And we wish all the children here who study, a wonderful future, as we wish a wonderful future to the people of Aceh and the people of Indonesia.

Transcript 15976