Adelaide Uni celebrates 50th anniversary of Colombo Plan

Friday, 29 June 2001

The Colombo Plan played a crucial role in shaping the current relationship between Malaysia and Australia, according to Adelaide University Vice-Chancellor Professor Mary O'Kane.

Professor O'Kane, who is in Kuala Lumpur this weekend for celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary since the Plan's inception in 1951, says many Malaysian Colombo Plan scholars made very important contributions to not only their country, but to Australia as well.

Some of the most notable Malaysian Colombo Plan scholars to attend Adelaide include: the Chief Minister of Sarawak, Y.A.B. Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri (Dr) Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud; and Chairman of Sabah Bank, Abdul Hamid Ego bin Hamid.

"Malaysia has obviously benefited tremendously from the Colombo Plan, with scholars such as these going on hold very important positions in society," she says. "But what is often overlooked is that Australia has also obtained much from these people and from its role as host.

"The Colombo Plan provided Australia with a very useful economic platform in Asian countries such as Malaysia, and it also gave Australia a real appreciation of Malaysian culture for the first time."

Y.A.B. Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri (Dr) Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud is also giving the keynote speech at the formal celebration of the Colombo Plan's 50th anniversary, to be held at the Australian High Commission on Sunday (July 1).

Adelaide University is also hosting a reception for Colombo Plan scholars and alumni, which will be followed by a Testimonial Dinner for Dr Harry Medlin, at the Hotel Malaya tomorrow (Saturday) evening.

Professor O'Kane said both events would recognise the contribution Malaysian Colombo Plan scholars had made to life in both their home country and Australia.

"In 1952, just after the inception of the Colombo Plan, Adelaide University had 94 international students, 50 of them from Malaya," she says. "Today we have more than 1500 international students, and more than 600 of these are from Malaysia, which is by far the biggest representation from any one international country at the university.

"Many of these students came to Adelaide under the Colombo Plan, and have since returned to Malaysia to make significant contributions to society. Importantly, they have also made a significant contribution towards Australia becoming the multicultural it is today, and it is these contributions we are acknowledging this weekend."


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