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The Australian Prime Minister, the Honourable Malcolm Turnbull MP, and the Vice President of the Lao PDR, H.E. Dr Phankham Viphavanh, today congratulated 31 young Lao men and women awarded scholarships to study in Australia.

Australia Awards Scholarships allow students from the public and private sectors to undertake specialised courses at Australian universities. The 31 awardees – 21 women and 10 men – in the 2017 cohort will study subjects as diverse as public administration, economics, finance, community development and natural resource management.

In his speech at the scholarships ceremony at the Laos Australia Institute in central Vientiane, Mr Turnbull said the Australia Awards scholars would return after their studies to make a significant contribution to national development.

“We are living in times of unprecedented and rapid change, and Laos sits on the crest of that wave. You are one of the region’s smallest nations, yet you have one of the world’s fastest growing economies,” Mr Turnbull said.

“You join a pipeline of more than 1,200 of your fellow countrywomen and men who have, over three decades, travelled southwards to study in Australia on Australian Government scholarships. They have returned home as leaders and global citizens. I always say this about the Australian workforce, but it is no less true here — your greatest asset is the creativity and ingenuity of your people,” Mr Turnbull said.

Mr Turnbull and Dr Phankham took the opportunity at the awards ceremony to officially open the Laos Australia Institute and the Lao Government’s Foreign Languages Resource Centre, recently renovated with Australian funding.

The event was also attended by the Lao Minister for Planning and Investment, Dr Souphanh Keomisay, who has oversight of the Laos Australia Institute programs, and the Lao Minister for Education and Sports, Madame Sengdeuane Lachanthaboun.