21 December 2017
From the High Commissioner's Desk: 2017- Another Big Year for Australia in Solomon Islands
I have been in the Solomon Islands for 12 months now and it has been a very busy time for Australia in Solomon Islands.
For us in the High Commission, the year started on a high note with a visit by the Secretary of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ms Frances Adamson. During the visit, she met with the then Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and Foreign Minister Milner Tozaka to discuss Solomon Islands transition from RAMSI and Australia’s ongoing commitment to the country’s security. As one of Australia’s closest neighbours and nearest friends, Australia is committed to the ongoing security and growing prosperity of Solomon Islands.
The highlight of the year was the drawdown of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, RAMSI, after 14 years in Solomon Islands. I would like to reiterate that Australia will never shirk from its responsibilities in the Pacific, and the departure of RAMSI is certainly not the departure of Australia. We are here to stay and we will continue to support this country’s positive trajectory. Our aid program is close to one billion Solomon dollars a year to provide support for economic growth, infrastructure and essential services. Last year we announced the replacement of Solomon Islands’ patrol boats ‘Auki’ and ‘Lata’. We have also finalised a security treaty that will permit Australia to support the Solomon Islands in an emergency.
Another highlight was the Aid Partnership Agreement signed by our Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, and the then Solomon Islands Minister for Development Planning and Aid Coordination, the Hon Danny Philip MP. The Partnership sets out the Solomon Islands and Australian Governments’ shared vision for cooperation over the next three years to improve people’s lives. It will focus on stimulating economic growth. Under the Partnership, we have committed up to AUD 17 million for the Tina River Hydropower Development Project. Once confirmed, this project will attract USD 240 million in investment for a major national asset.
In business, Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, the Hon Keith Pitt launched the new Australian Government initiative ‘Strongim Business’ during the 9th Australia Solomon Islands Business Forum that was held in Honiara in July. This three year AUD 14 million investment will work with the Private sector to support growth in selected markets, initially cocoa, coconut and tourism. While he was here, Assistant Minister Pitt also met with Solomon Islands and Australian business people and visited several agricultural producers that are contributing to the growing trade and investment partnership between Australia and Solomon Islands.
We were also very proud to have hosted the Women’s Leadership Seminar on Sports and Elections alongside the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, New South Wales Branch. Presenters at the seminar include Jenny Aitchison MP, Shadow Minister for Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and Shadow Minister for Small Business; Kate Washington MP, Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Shadow Minister for the Hunter; the Hon. Lynda Voltz, Shadow Minister for Sport and Shadow Minister for Veteran’s Affairs; among others. Topics covered during the seminar included: empowering women and girls through sport, breaking the glass ceiling, using local knowledge to influence government policy and how to run a campaign.
Our Defence Team have also worked hard this year to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal in World War II. We also commemorated those whose lives were lost in the hills, on the beaches and at sea. Alongside Solomon Islanders and many others, we celebrated their sacrifice, and mourned their loss.
So as I reflect on 2017, I feel very blessed. Blessed to be supported by an outstanding team of smart, committed people; blessed to live in such an amazing country; and blessed to have met so many strong, interesting, hospitable Solomon Islanders over the course of the year.
As we celebrate the festive season, my family and I would like to wish everyone safe holidays and a very merry Christmas and happy new year 2018.