Tuesday, 29 August 2023

Reception for Adelaide George Town Sister City Anniversary

Good evening all.

I am very pleased to be with you on my first official visit to Malaysia as Governor of South Australia, and I extend my personal congratulations to the cities of Adelaide and George Town on what is a very significant anniversary.

And what a fitting venue to hold this celebration – Suffolk House, the former home of Captain Francis Light, who was of course Penang’s founder – and the father of Colonel William Light, the Surveyor General of my hometown of Adelaide.

This 50th anniversary is a testament to the meaningful and continued cooperation between our cities, and speaks highly to the efforts of those who have nurtured it over the past five decades.

In 1786, Penang was founded by Captain Light, and 50 years later, Adelaide was selected as the site for South Australia’s new capital by his son, Colonel William Light.

Colonel Light’s vision for the new capital, and instrumental work in setting up South Australia’s land system as the first Surveyor-General still make him one of Adelaide’s most recognisable names.

Almost two hundred years later, the 35th Premier of South Australia, in his search for economic links in Southeast Asia, came across Penang, and observed that it demonstrated an incredible opportunity for cultural and economic partnership.

The unique connection that Adelaide and George Town share with the Light family was of course a main driver behind the inspiration for the Sister City relationship for then-Premier of South Australia Don Dunstan, whose second wife was from Penang. 

Through discussions with the second Chief Minister of Penang, Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu, the solidification of our relationship was ensured in the Adelaide-George Town Sister City Relationship, signed 50 years ago on December 8 of this year.

Both cities set about the planning of a ‘Penang Week’ in Adelaide, and a ‘South Australia Week’ in George Town, to demonstrate the great mutual respect for one another’s cultures and history.

This mutual respect has been so evident in my visit which has provided an excellent opportunity to meet friends and partners of South Australia in Penang, and to explore new opportunities.

Today, I’ve held productive meetings with all levels of Penang’s government, including Governor YT Tun Dato’ Seri Utama Ahmad Fuzi Abdul Razak.

Of the many connections between Penang and Adelaide, both I, and your State Governor, are former heads of our foreign ministries. 

I last had the privilege of visiting Malaysia in 2019 as Secretary of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – for Senior Officials’ Talks. 

I am pleased to see how the relationship between Malaysia and Australia has grown since then, and even strengthened through the pandemic.  

Australia and Malaysia have a long-standing relationship, which we wholeheartedly appreciate and hold in high regard.

In the year to June 2023, Malaysia was the third largest destination market for South Australian exports – and our fifth largest import market, exceeding the national average.

We undeniably share strong economic links. However, it is our people-to-people links that have ensured the longevity and success of our relationship

In the 50 years of our Sister City agreement, the cities of Adelaide and George Town have both flourished. Both are hubs for the arts and creative industries, festivals, education, innovation, heritage conservation, food and beverage, tourism and sustainable development.

Recent engagements in the build up to the 50-year anniversary demonstrate that both cities continue to take tremendous steps to ensure continued cooperation and engagement.

In October, Adelaide will host the OzAsia Festival, which showcases performing arts, visual arts, literature, food and culture from Asia annually. In 2019, OzAsia Festival audiences were lucky to experience a live performance by Malaysian pop icon Siti Nurhaliza.  

In 2023, I’m pleased that the OzAsia Festival and the George Town Literary Festival will be running a writers’ exchange. Three Asian-Australian writers, including Michelle de Kretser and Jennifer Wong will participate in the George Town Literary Festival, while three Malaysian writers will take part in OzAsia’s literary program - In Other Words.

The story of Adelaide and George Town reflects the richness of the broader relationship between Australia and Malaysia. 

This is underpinned by extensive military history, from World War II, to the Malayan Emergency and period of Confrontation, to robust defence relations today.

Just last week, Australia’s Defence Minister was in Malaysia, including at Butterworth, to reinforce Australia’s commitment to the defence relationship.  

We’ve enjoyed decades of significant education ties, beginning with Malaysians being the largest cohort of students to study in Australia under the original Colombo Plan from the 1950s onwards.  

There have been more than 300,000 Malaysians who’ve studied in Australia and I’m some of them join us today.

These important milestones I’ve mentioned have resulted in a deep familiarity between the people of our countries. 

Nearly 180,000 Malaysian-born people live in Australia and a number have gone on to serve at the highest levels of our nation. 

I’m pleased to say that several prominent Malaysian Australians hail from South Australia. 

Foreign Minister Penny Wong, who was born in Kota Kinabalu and moved to Adelaide aged 8, is just one example.  

Another is well-known chef, Adam Liaw, who joins us today.

Malaysians are famous for your love of food and your culinary talent. Australians of Malaysian ancestry are well represented among the contestants and winners of MasterChef Australia.  

And South Australia is lucky the passion and talent of the Malaysian diaspora, coupled with Australia’s premium produce, has helped to make our state one of Australia’s top food destinations.  

The arts, heritage, and food and culture are great sources of strength within the Adelaide and George Town relationship.

The City of Adelaide is a proud UNESCO City of Music, and George Town is a proud UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Both cities share a strong focus on arts, with skilled, beautiful street art present throughout our cities.

The profound respect and appreciation for history and preservation shared by our cities is unmistakeable.

The beauty of both of our cities is also undeniable, stemming back to our Light family historical similarities, but enriched by our own respective individual histories since.

Adelaide and George Town are fortunate to possess distinctive and delicious food scenes.

Adelaide, with its melting pot of cuisine and world-renowned wine, is also home to the Adelaide Central Market, one of the largest undercover markets in the Southern Hemisphere.

George Town too enjoys a smorgasbord of culturally diverse food, influenced heavily by traditional Malay, Chinese, and Indian dishes, known as one of the great food hot spots globally.

Throughout its life, our sister city relationship has seen an increase in tourism, several two-way trade missions, official delegations, food fairs, and cultural exchanges.

In November 2019, George Town hosted the second annual ASEAN-Australia Education Dialogue and the City of Adelaide was a proud sponsor.

As we reflect on the 50 years that have passed, I also want to look ahead.

My program in Penang, meeting with government, business, the arts and all of you here tonight, seeks to grow the partnerships between the two sister cities for the next 50 years.

With that, I’m delighted to launch the Gourmet South Australia Adelaide Food Fair in Penang.

For the month of September, locals will have the chance to experience the best of South Australian food and beverages in AEON Supermarket, at Queensbay Mall, Penang Island.

This will be Gourmet South Australia’s third food fair in Penang, building on the previous two years of successful engagement with AEON Group.

And I am pleased to note that this third iteration will have a specific focus on the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Adelaide-George Town Sister City Relationship.

I look forward to witnessing the continued cooperation and growth that our two cities will experience in the coming years.

Our strong aligned values and deep people-to-people links will ensure our friendship extends far into the future.

Coming events