Thank you very very much Ambassador.
Your Excellency, Dr Workneh, Foreign Minister of Ethiopia,
Heads of Diplomatic Mission and the diplomatic staff,
Officials of the African Union,
Your Excellency, Ambassador, Mark Sawers,
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
I am delighted to be here today, on my first official visit to Africa.
As you all know, I have the honour of representing Australia at the African Union Summit.
At the same time, in a pleasant coincidence, I am also here at just the right time to celebrate Australia Day.
So it is a real pleasure to be asked to officially open the Australian Embassy’s Chancery on our national day.
2017 marks the fifty-second year of diplomatic relations between Australia and Ethiopia.
As far back as February 1965, as the winds of change blew across Africa, the Australian Government understood how important it was to be part of Africa’s emergence.
So, 52 years ago we established an Australian High Commission in Kenya.
At that time, and for many years, our diplomatic efforts with Ethiopia and Uganda were conducted out of Nairobi.
But the hope always was that – eventually – we would open in Addis Ababa, headquarters of what was, in that time, the newly established Organisation of African Unity.
Ethiopia’s leading role in Africa is deeply rooted in history as an independent kingdom dating back thousands of years, with a complex and ancient heritage culture.
It was not until the 1980s, though, that Australia briefly opened a resident mission in Addis Ababa.
Unfortunately, it proved to be short lived.
But the second and more successful attempt was made in 2010, as a new generation of Australians expanded our engagement with a rising Africa.
Addis Ababa was first on our list for further posts in Africa for obvious reasons.
For too long, though, we had to operate from the Hilton Hotel, while suitable permanent premises were found.
They look okay from the outside, but I think Ambassador, this is much much nicer.
Finally, with considerable help from the Ethiopian authorities and due to the hard work of the then resident Ambassador Lisa Filipetto and her team, at last these magnificent premises were found, acquired and made fit for purpose.
The work of our Embassy grew during our recent term on the United Nations Security Council from 2013-14 as we worked even more closely with the African Union on the situations in South Sudan, Somalia, The Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere.
Our United Nations Security Council term made us even more aware of the excellent work Ethiopia does as a regional power in seeking to promote regional peace and security and stability, often at cost to itself.
The establishment of this post has also allowed us to broaden and strengthen our bilateral relations.
I especially wish to pay tribute to pioneering doctors Reginald and Catherine Hamlin who established the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in 1974 after first arriving here in 1959.
I should also mention Valerie Browning and Barbara May Foundation, as well as the many other Australians and Australian organisations who have contributed to improving the welfare of Ethiopians and to Ethiopia’s social and economic development.
We are also very aware of the need to constantly advance human rights.
And that is why we are seeking to be elected to the United Nation’s Human Rights Council in 2018.
It is also why we have been pleased to use this visit as an opportunity to announce a new 1 million dollar Australian commitment to support the African Union’s efforts to empower women and girls across the whole continent.
You empower a woman, you empower her family, you empower her community and you empower her country.
May this building be the headquarters for another fifty years of strong friendship and flourishing engagement between Australia and Ethiopia; and equally strong relationships with the Central African Republic, Djibouti and South Sudan, who we will also reach diplomatically from this post.
Thank you very much for your kind attention.
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