Ambassador Mudie’s Vietnam journey began when she started learning the Vietnamese language to deepen her knowledge and understanding of the country’s history and political development while studying South-East Asia for her Honours degree at the University of Adelaide. She subsequently joined the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1990 and was posted to the Australian Embassy in Hanoi as Second Secretary from 1993 to 1995 before returning 24 years later as Ambassador in 2019. Ambassador Mudie says ACIAR has provided great moments of inspiration and wonderful memories during her time in the country.
It was on a recent visit to Vietnam’s mountainous north-west that she saw first-hand an example, she says, of the excellent way in which ACIAR supports projects that help local farming communities.
The project, which began in 2017, aims to improve livestock production and is helping farmers move away from less efficient wild grazing practices to producing large-scale feed that can be stored for long periods.
‘These new, more intensive techniques enable farmers to maintain their herds throughout the year, even at times when feed is not readily available,’ explains Ambassador Mudie.
‘It’s important work because it builds a much more sustainable economic model for the community.’
It’s projects like these that help strengthen the strategic partnership between Australia and Vietnam, says the Ambassador.
She adds that this work is so critical because it helps people in the region – one of the country’s poorest – to generate reliable livelihoods for themselves. Generating positive outcomes and tangible results is important to the Ambassador; she says she wants to ensure the relationship with Vietnam and Australia delivers real benefits and builds enduring and deep relationships, such as the one she has developed over time with the country.
We have been working closely with Vietnam for over 5 decades across 3 core pillars of security cooperation, economic engagement and innovation.
Ms Robyn Mudie
Australia’s Ambassador to Vietnam
‘We find that these 3 pillars really support a strong and sustainable future for this country and we are highly committed to continuing our engagement with Vietnam across all of them.’
Australia-Vietnam agricultural development
Australia and Vietnam have complementary agricultural production profiles, with 2-way trade in agriculture, fisheries and forestry products worth about A$4.4 billion in 2021. Vietnam sells prawns, cashews, fish, coffee and fruit to Australia, and Australia exports rural commodities such as wheat, cotton, barley and live cattle to Vietnam.
Research, technology and innovation have helped to drive Vietnam’s transformation to an export-focused economy producing commodities that meet international standards. ACIAR has played a role in this transformation.
Agriculture also remains central to Vietnam’s rural communities, where pockets of poverty and significant gender gaps remain, says Ambassador Mudie.
Research for rural development is vital to address these gaps, especially linking poorer rural areas to exports through free trade agreements.
‘Applying new agricultural research and technology will provide women with opportunities to improve their household income, skills and confidence,’ says Ambassador Mudie.
‘It increases the efficiency and productivity of women farmers, and through sharing their knowledge with others or building cooperatives, they will have further leadership opportunities.’
Ambassador Mudie says ACIAR-supported research and the ACIAR-Vietnam relationship have played an important role in the broader Australia-Vietnam relationship.
‘The ACIAR-Vietnam partnership is long-standing, based on mutual benefits and respect for each other, which is reflected very clearly through the development of the 10-year strategy for ACIAR-Vietnam research collaboration.
‘I also highly appreciate the strong human linkages ACIAR has developed through research project implementation in Vietnam. I have witnessed how Vietnamese partners from national to provincial levels highly regard ACIAR for its investment in building human resources for Vietnam. ACIAR, therefore, contributes greatly to our goal of supporting Vietnam to build a strong and sustainable future.’
In the past 3 years, Ambassador Mudie has also witnessed 3 major ACIAR achievements.
In 2020, on behalf of the Governor-General of Australia, she awarded ACIAR Country Manager for Vietnam, Ms An Thi Thanh Nguyen, the Australian Public Service Medal in recognition of her outstanding contribution to fostering the Australia-Vietnam bilateral relationship in agricultural research.
In 2021, despite the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, ACIAR and its Vietnamese counterparts successfully launched the Vietnam cohort of 19 John Dillon Fellows, who have now received training to develop their leadership and science management skills.
And in the past few years, the positive impacts of the decade-long investment by ACIAR in collaborative research for vegetables, beef cattle and agroforestry development significantly improved the livelihoods of thousands of smallholder farmers from the poorest region of north-west Vietnam.
The Ambassador says she hopes ACIAR-funded research in Vietnam will develop to include partnerships with the private sector and create better opportunities for the poor residents in rural and urban areas and that ACIAR will continue to put women at the centre of any economic development models.
‘If we do not support women to develop the power and the knowledge to lead their enterprises, then the economy will only be half as good as it could be,’ says Ambassador Mudie.
‘I am very proud to have overseen Australia’s and ACIAR’s strong contribution to women’s economic empowerment during my term as Ambassador, and privileged to have been part of Australia’s ongoing contribution to the economic development of this unique and remarkable country.’