13 February 2015
BUILDING THE LINKS BETWEEN AUSTRALIANS AND SOLOMON ISLANDERS
From the High Commissioner's Desk
Australian High Commissioner Andrew Byrne with the 2015 Australia Award Scholarship Recipients
I’ve been in Solomon Islands for just over a year now and I’m continually struck by the close cooperation between our two countries. But to me, our rapidly expanding people-to-people links are the most exciting part of our relationship.
One of the most high profile examples of people-to-people links between Australia and Solomon Islands is the Australia Awards scholarships. Each year, the Australian government offers around 50 longterm scholarships to intelligent, hard-working Solomon Islanders to take up tertiary studies in Australia.
The scholarships are an important part of Australia’s partnership with Solomon Islands. They provide opportunities for Solomon Islanders to receive quality education and to build skills, leadership, knowledge and expertise for the benefit of Solomon Islands. They also create a global network of leaders committed to social development and economic growth with strong links to Australia.
Student mobility is important for building mutually beneficial people-to-people links and I’m proud to say that exchanges now work both ways. Only a few weeks ago, I welcomed the first group of Australian students to Solomon Islands under the New Colombo Plan. The Plan aims to increase the number of young Australians studying and undertaking internships in the Indo-Pacific region.
These first eight students will undertake a mix of medical work and town planning research in Kira Kira, but perhaps more importantly, they’ll learn about Solomon Islands’ culture and develop close bonds with counterparts and professionals in this country. I expect that up to 100 students will have the opportunity to complete similar placements in Kira Kira over the coming 18 months as part of the initiative.
There are plenty more examples of people-to-people links: of Solomon Islanders taking up employment opportunities in Australia through the Seasonal Worker Program; of journalists building media relationships through the Douglas Gabb Internship program, of Australians working alongside their government counterparts; of Australian business people working with Solomon Islanders to help grow the economy.
It’s remarkable how far Australia’s relations with Solomon Islands have come. What’s even more remarkable is the potential for further growth. This potential is best met if it is underpinned by growing people-to-people links so that our two countries can work even more closely together on our common interests and our common challenges.