The Australian Government on Nov. 13 announced a new scholarship initiative, branded the Australia Awards, to support enduring ties between the nation and its neighbours.

The Australia Awards will comprise two streams: a leadership stream that will target the best and brightest scholars to come to Australia and a development stream that will build capacity in developing countries, according to a media release.

The first phase of the initiative, the Australia Asia Awards, was announced by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd while addressing an audience at the National University of Singapore.

The Australia Asia Awards will be supported by new funding of 18 million AUD and its first scholars will take up their awards in 2010. Comparable programmes for other regions will be rolled out in subsequent years.

The Australian Government currently invests 200 million AUD each year in scholarship programmes which, at any time, support around 5,000 international students to study in Australia .

The Australia Awards will bring together these Australian scholarship programmes under a single recognisable brand.

The Australian Government hopes that the new scholarship initiative will demonstrate Australia ’s ongoing commitment to building closer and enduring ties with the region and beyond./.