My experience as an intern in the Australian Embassy in Japan has been everything I hoped it would be – and more! My understanding of international affairs and Japanese has increased and I have grown and developed as a person.

Being provided with the opportunity to live, study and work in Tokyo while on a New Colombo Plan scholarship has also been phenomenal. Whilst Tokyo is a busy, densely populated city, it never ceases to amaze me there is always green space, festivals to attend, and places to relax.  Life is never boring.

On International Volunteer Day 2017, Australian volunteer Brad Timms serves as a shining example of the personal, professional and profound lasting benefits of international volunteering.

Each year more than 1,000 Australians donate their time and skills to volunteer in developing countries through the Government’s flagship Australian Volunteers program, helping to make our region more stable, secure and prosperous. On this International Volunteer Day I thank all Australian Volunteers – past and present – for their selfless contribution to regional growth and prosperity.

The Jessore clinic was full of women and children of all ages and the clinic’s triage nurse was busy conducting eye examinations. I soon met an elderly patient named Monowara. She sat in the waiting room with a kind smile on her face. I immediately noticed opacity in her eyes – a tell-tale sign of cataracts.

The Foreign Policy White Paper, the first comprehensive policy paper on Australia’s international engagement since 2003, will chart a clear course in a time of change and uncertainty. It will set out the Government’s strategy for engaging with the world, and in particular the Indo-Pacific region, over the next decade. Australia’s interests are global, but our priorities are increasingly centred in Asia and the Indian and Pacific oceans, from India in the West to North America in the East, from Antarctica in the South to China, Japan and neighbouring countries in the North.

Protecting Australia and our way of life is the most important responsibility of the Federal Government. It is a role that we must now perform in the face of ever greater uncertainty and complexity.

Australian scientists, funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), identified fundamental productivity problems with the main food crops in Timor-Leste. The lack of a national seed system meant that even if farmers were aware of improved varieties to plant, they were unable to access sufficient quality-assured seed. So ACIAR developed a research project in partnership with the new government of Timor-Leste that trialed and introduced new, higher-yielding varieties of the major food crops, and developed a national seed system to ensure ready availability across the country.