24 February 2017
High Commissioner Brazier’s first visit to Malaita Province
From Tikopia to Fauro, Solomon Islands is made up of an incredibly rich tapestry of peoples and cultures, each with their own dreams and ambitions, as well as challenges and hardships. Almost 80% of Solomon Islanders live in rural and remote areas, and over the last two months it has become abundantly clear to me that in order to truly understand how Australia can support ongoing peace and prosperity for all Solomon Islanders, I need to understand what life is like in the Provinces. With this in mind, I undertook my first official travel outside of Honiara last week, and visited Auki, the capital of Malaita Province.
Shortly after touching down at Gwaunaru’u Airport, I had the honour of meeting Premier Peter Ramohia and his Provincial Executive. Malaita faces many development challenges, including in the areas of infrastructure, governance, economic development and the delivery of health and education services. I learned about the Government of Malaita’s plans to tackle these challenges, and I was pleased to be able to share with Premier Ramohia a few examples of how the Australian aid program is working hand in hand with his Government to support development in each of these areas. I am so grateful to Premier Ramohia for the gift of a beautiful shell money Tafuliae, which now graces my office in Honiara.
Shortly after that meeting I was greeted very warmly by Provincial Police Commander Wate, and learned about the great work RSIPF is doing to maintain peace and security throughout Malaita. I was pleased to learn about Malaita’s implementation of the RSIPF’s Crime Prevention Strategy, and the strong gains already made to implement the Family Protection Act. While RAMSI will draw to a close over the coming months, Australia will continue to work with the Solomon Islands to support peace and security for a long time to come.
Malaita has great potential for economic growth, particularly through its agricultural sector. I really enjoyed my visit to Auki Market, which Australia has supported for the past three years. I must congratulate the Auki Market Vendors’ Association. It’s one of the best markets I’ve ever visited, and I have to say, Malaitan pineapples are definitely the best in the world.
Malaita’s other great economic resource is its people. Health and education are priority sectors of the Australian aid program in Solomon Islands, and it was great to see first-hand the difference that our support is having on the lives of the people of Malaita.
At the Youth@Work program office in Auki I met some very motivated young people who are learning new skills that will help them gain employment or build new businesses. Together with the students of the APSD Rural Training Centre, which is supported by Australia’s Skills for Economic Growth program, these talented young people hold the key to Malaita’s future.
Finally, I met some of the extremely dedicated staff at Kilu’ufi Hospital, including Australians, Mark and Anna, and I was inspired by their efforts to deliver high quality healthcare in the face of very challenging circumstances. I’m proud that Australia is able to support them in their work through our Health Sector Support Program.
Thank you very much to all the people of Malaita for your very kind, hospitable welcome. I look forward to visiting other Provinces shortly!