1 May 2015
From the High Commissioner's Desk
Our Aid is Making a Difference
The best part of my job is when I’m able to get out of the office and meet ordinary Solomon Islanders. Whether it’s opening SIWIBA’s new business development centre; attending an APTC graduation; or kicking a ball around with a local Aussie Rules team (a big thank you to the boys from the White River Demons for going easy on me!), getting out and mixing with the local community always reminds me that I have the best job in the world. Or at least in Australia’s diplomatic service!
But there are occasions when it’s also important to focus internally on High Commission business, to ensure we’re operating as well as we can. One of those occasions was last week, when we held our annual internal review of our aid program in Solomon Islands. It’s an opportunity for us to assess how we’ve been going over the past 12 months, measured against specific criteria.
So for each major part of our program, we asked ourselves questions like “is this still the right thing to be doing?”; “how effective and efficient have we been?”; and “have we taken gender issues properly into account?”
It’s an intensive and stressful process for our staff to go through. They’re all – Australians and Solomon Islanders alike - highly committed people who are passionate about improving the lives of Solomon Islanders. So to have their work critically scrutinised by their peers from Honiara and Canberra isn’t always an easy experience.
But I’m happy to report that overall, that scrutiny confirmed that our aid program in Solomon Islands is on track and helping to deliver some very good outcomes.
Our contribution to the National Transport Fund helped ensure that more roads were maintained and those damaged by last year’s floods were repaired quickly. Our support to the health sector helped Solomon Islands respond effectively to four big disease outbreaks last year. Our support to the Electoral Commission helped it deliver a smooth and credible national election last November. And our advisors in core agencies helped the Government raise revenue, manage the budget and tackle corruption.
These are all good outcomes for Solomon Islanders. Much of our work is low profile and not visible to many people, but we know it makes a difference.
Of course, we also discovered and acknowledged some areas where we need to do better. For example, we need to make sure we’re getting out into the field regularly to monitor the performance of all our programs.
To that end, our Minister Counsellor Sue Connell is currently visiting the Weathercoast to check on the progress of the Channels of Hope program in that hard-to-reach region of Guadalcanal. As I sit in my office, I can’t tell you how much I envy Sue right now!
Image: Australian High Commissioner Andrew Byrne with students and teachers at the Laulana Community High School in Malaita