Thank you Secretary Varghese. Can I also start by adding my acknowledgement to country. I acknowledge Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dame Meg Taylor. I also acknowledge His Excellency, Mr Yogesh Punja, Fiji High Commissioner.

It is a great pleasure to be here to open the design sprint for the Pacific Humanitarian Challenge.

Firstly, can I start by congratulating the top ten teams here. Can I also acknowledge the presence of the members of the advisory council who have been able to join us here today.

We have a great mix of innovations here. They range from drones, that help assess needs and re-establish communications, to accessible insurance.

The fact that drones and insurance appear together indicates the extent of the innovation.

Thank you for dedicating your time and experience to supporting the teams and the Challenge.

Events over the last few weeks have shown how important and timely the Challenge is.

The Foreign Minister referred to the recent events and the disasters that have occurred in Fiji, most recently, and before that Cyclone Pam that devastated Vanuatu.

We have worked with our partners in the region to support our neighbours in both these disasters.

As the Secretary said, it is very timely in our agenda of innovation that we meet here together for this Challenge and this sprint.

We have a proud history of humanitarian action in the region and assisting our Pacific neighbours, especially in the wake of natural disasters.

In a world of rapid change, we want to continually assess whether new technology and innovation can improve our capability and ensure it is fit for purpose.

There is global recognition that the humanitarian sector must innovate to bridge the gap between resources and need driven by protracted crises and increased vulnerability to natural disasters.

So we went out and sought advice from Pacific Governments through the Pacific Island Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting last year, through the Australian Civilian Corps specialists in the region, through the private sector and through our diplomatic missions in the region.

This helped us to identify areas where we can significantly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of disaster preparedness and response to provide the greatest levels of support to partner governments and affected communities. 

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop launched the $2 million Pacific Humanitarian Challenge last year.

This Challenge is aimed at finding targeted, innovative solutions that can help empower the countries and communities affected by natural disasters.

We have sought ideas from you – the private sector, NGOs, universities and entrepreneurs.

You have expertise, experience and access to the technologies and innovations that we want to utilise to help save more lives. 

The response has been overwhelming, with 129 submissions, and far exceeding our expectations.

This number of submissions demonstrates the enthusiasm in Australia, in the region and beyond in ensuring that future humanitarian responses are of the highest quality.

It has been very difficult to identify the top ten ideas from the vast number of interesting and worthy submissions.

You are here before us with your ideas and we are looking forward to working with you to refine the submissions through our design sprint.

Over the next few weeks, we will select the winning submissions for funding.

These top ideas will be showcased as part of our focus on humanitarian innovation at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May.

You have a big day ahead of you tomorrow.

Thank you for responding to our call to rethink humanitarian action in the Pacific and I wish you all good luck.

I look forward to seeing your ideas in the Pacific over the next 12 months.

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