27 January 2017
From the High Commissioner’s Desk - HE Mr Rod Brazier
Australia Day gives all Australians an opportunity to reflect and give thanks. It’s a day to celebrate our history, culture and achievements with our friends and neighbours. For Australia, Solomon Islands is not only one of our nearest neighbours, but one of our closest friends.
Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop reaffirmed this close friendship when she visited Solomon Islands with a bipartisan delegation last month. The Minister spoke from the heart, saying “we are friends, we are neighbours, we are partners, and this is a relationship that will endure”.
I couldn’t agree more.
Over the last year, we’ve worked closely together and together we’ve achieved some impressive results. In December – only a few days before I arrived in Honiara – a terrible earthquake and tsunami devastated many parts of Makira, Guadalcanal and Malaita. Australia worked closely with Solomon Islands to ensure that relief supplies and assessment teams were able to quickly reach the affected people.
Australia is also committed to the long-term effort, to help those communities recover in the difficult months after the initial disaster.
In 2016 we worked tirelessly to advance gender equality and to support the implementation of the Family Protection Act, a major milestone in Solomon Islands’ efforts to address domestic violence.
Together, we brought cruise tourism to Solomon Islands, bringing around SBD265,000 worth of benefits to local businesses every time a ship pulls into Solomon Islands’ shores.
We made strong gains in the health sector, making inroads against malaria and boosting access to essential medicines for all Solomon Islanders. Indeed, I was pleased to sign a new funding agreement with the Solomon Islands Government earlier this month worth around SBD377 million that will ensure these gains endure.
Our people-to-people links have also strengthened through growing private sector linkages, education exchanges and the commitment of Australian volunteers.
2016 saw the 1,200th Solomon Islander graduate from the Australia-Pacific Technical College – that’s over 1,200 men and women from across Solomon Islands with internationally-recognised qualifications; and over 1,200 reasons why everyone here today can hire a builder, take their car to a mechanic, take their children to pre-school, or participate in local tourism and know that the service you’re paying for will meet international standards.
Looking forward, 2017 also promises to be an important year in the enduring friendship between Australia and Solomon Islands. It will bring an even greater focus on stimulating economic growth as we begin to implement the SBD285 million Solomon Islands Growth Program announced by Foreign Minister Bishop last year.
2017 marks the year of RAMSI’s departure and a new era of bilateral cooperation. The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) is strong and very capable. After 13 years of training and mentoring from RAMSI, the RSIPF is one of the best police forces in the region. It is ready to be independent.
I take this opportunity to commend the outgoing Police Commissioner for his exemplary leadership and dedication over the past two and a half years. His legacy is a professional and solid force for the new Commissioner to build on and develop further over the next two years.
Nonetheless, Australia’s commitment to security and stability in Solomon Islands remains strong and will endure. Working closely with the Solomon Islands Government we’re developing a new phase of support for law, justice and policing through the aid program. This support will ensure the gains of RAMSI are maintained; continue building the capacity of the RSIPF; and enhance Solomon Islanders’ access to justice.
We’re also working with the Solomon Islands Government to develop a new security treaty that would allow Australia to provide Solomon Islands with emergency operational assistance if requested.
This is a story of genuine friendship and cooperation. 2016 was a warm and fruitful year for our two countries. The 2017 chapter promises to deliver even greater results. On my first Australia Day in Solomon Islands, it is a great honour to share this day of celebration with so many friends of mine and friends of Australia.