Stepping-up Australia’s engagement with our Pacific family

Frank ans Scott shake hands in front of their national flags
Prime Ministers Frank Bainimarama and Scott Morrison made history with the signing of the Vuvale partnership between Fiji and Australia on 16 September 2019. Photo: @ScottMorrisonMP Twitter

The Pacific Step-up is one of Australia’s highest foreign policy priorities, highlighted in Australia’s 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper and 2016 Defence White Paper as of fundamental importance to Australia. The Step-up was first announced at the Pacific Island Forum Leaders' Meeting in September 2016 as a ‘step-change’ in the way we would engage the region. On 8 November 2018, Prime Minister Morrison announced Australia would take our engagement to a new level, launching a “new chapter in relations with our Pacific family”.

Group of women
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Senator Marise Payne, meets with community leaders working to improve the lives of women throughout Papua New Guinea. Photo: @MarisePayne Twitter

The Step-up builds on over half a century of sustained engagement, responding to the region’s priorities by further enhancing our commitments. Our future is deeply intertwined with that of our Pacific family, and we have an abiding interest in the sovereignty, stability, security and prosperity of our region.

Speaking at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Innovation Exchange on 22 July 2019,  Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women Marise Payne said “Australia has long been the Pacific’s largest development partner, security partner and friend in time of need. This is a solid foundation, but our conversations in the Pacific over the past several years have made it clear that we can and should all do more together to rise to the challenge and opportunities of our new Blue Pacific Continent”.

Minister Hawke shaking hands with people
Minister for International Development and the Pacific and Assistant Minister for Defence Alex Hawke attends the launch of the new PNGAusPartnership Secondary Schools initiative on 26 August. The program will reach over 2,400 students. Photo: @AlexHawkeMP Twitter

The Step-up responds to and recognises the broad-ranging challenges of our region, identified by Pacific leaders and communities themselves, including: strengthening climate and disaster resilience; sustained economic growth; and support to promote healthy, educated, inclusive populations. As the region’s largest development assistance partner, we have committed a record $1.4 billion in development assistance to the Pacific in 2019-20, to help our partner nations address their greatest concerns and embrace their greatest opportunities.

How we engage is just as important as what we do, so the newly established Office of the Pacific will work to better coordinate Australia’s engagement with the region across government, and to support our deepening engagement both regionally and bilaterally.

Speaking as the first Australian Minister to attend the Pacific Water and Wastewater Conference in Vanuatu, on 6 August 2019 Minister for International Development and the Pacific and Assistant Minister for Defence Alex Hawke said: “The Australian Government is here to listen.

Jenny Da Rin with choir signers
Australian High Commissioner to Vanuatu Jenny Da Rin with the Vanuatu Soul Harvest Choir. DFAT was proud to support the Soul Harvest Choir tour to Australia, in celebration of the 2019 UNESCO International Year of Indigenous Languages and women’s voices. Photo: DFAT

Building on our sustained regional and bilateral engagement with the Pacific, Australia will help promote economic prosperity through ambitious initiatives such as:

We are committed to supporting the security priorities agreed by the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Leaders for “Securing Our Future in the Pacific”, including through:

We are enhancing Defence engagement to bolster capacity, resilience and interoperability across the Pacific, including through significant infrastructure developments and joint training activities. The Australian Federal Police has also established a Pacific Faculty at the Australian Institute for Police Management.

The strength of our engagement is built on deep personal, historical and cultural ties. A new PacificAus Sports initiative, together with church partnerships and education programs will strengthen and celebrate these personal connections. We are rolling out the Pacific-Australia card to streamline travel to Australia by Pacific leaders, and we look forward to establishing a diplomatic mission in every Pacific Islands Forum member in coming years.

Video: Pacific Sports Partnerships Program

 

Video: Solomon Islands Pacific ChangeMakers

 
Last Updated: 8 October 2019