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Sapphire Anniversary Event for Australian Alumni

Around 200 of the more than 1,500 Lao graduates from Australian universities gathered in Vientiane on 13 March to help celebrate 65 years of diplomatic relations between Australia and Laos – our “sapphire” anniversary.

Australian Ambassador John Williams told the attendees at the annual Australian alumni networking reception that the large, impressive cohort of Australian university graduates across Laos were Australia’s most important asset in the country.

 “From the days of the old Colombo Plan to the Australia Awards of the 21st century, we trust the experience of an Australian education has given you not only the skills you need for your careers, but also a deeper understanding of Australia and Australians,” Williams said.

 “Whether you are among the more than 1,200 Lao students who have received an Australian Government scholarship, or one of the several hundred who have studied privately down under,  your knowledge of Australia makes you a vital bridge between our two countries.”

 “The talent across our alumni network makes me extremely confident in the future of Australia-Laos relations, as we celebrate our first 65 years as diplomatic partners,” the Ambassador said.

In his speech, Ambassador Williams noted the outstanding work of Australian alumni in the fields of public policy, business development and civil society.  He highlighted, for example, Dr Thongsa Sayavongkhamdy, a graduate of the Australian National University, who helped ensure the old city of Luang Prabang was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Register in 1995.

More recent Australian graduates have established successful businesses on their return to Laos, sometimes with an Australian connection.

Mr Williams said Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, had visited one of these businesses when he was in Vientiane for the ASEAN summit meetings in 2016. 

 “While he was here, the Prime Minister was able to enjoy a coffee at Naked Espresso. I’m fairly certain the company’s owner, Ariya Khamvongsa, didn’t go to Sydney specifically to learn how to make great coffee. But the presence of an Australian-style business, run by Lao management, helps us understand the benefits of an Australia Award scholarship are not just confined to academic study.”

The Australia Awards scholarships are managed on behalf of the Australian Government by the Laos Australia Institute.  Applications for the 2017 Australia Awards scholarship selection round close on 24 March.

Media Contact:

 Khounkham Douangphachone, Senior Media Officer at the Australian Embassy. Ph: 021 353800 x125, Em: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Vannaphone Sitthirath (Kino), Public Relation Coordinator, Laos Australia Institute, Tel: +856 21 265721-2 ; Mobile: +856 20 55559290; website: laosaustraliainstitute.org