Thank you, I am delighted to join you here today as part of my first visit to the Republic of Nauru.
Can I begin by acknowledging; First Lady, Madam Louisa, all the Ministers who have joined us here this evening, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and John Donnelly, our Australian High Commissioner here in Nauru.
It is a great pleasure to have met so many of Nauru’s leaders here in my first visit to Nauru as Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific.
Thank you very, very much for the very, very warm welcome that you have accorded me.
I also hope, Excellency, that you enjoyed your visit to Australia just two weeks ago.
It was wonderful to have you in Australia and the first official visit for a Nauruan President in more than 20 years.
It was very, very good.
The fact is, for such close neighbours, Australia and Nauru are very different nations.
One, a small island nation, in population and geography.
The other, the largest island in the world, the only inhabited island that is also a continent.
But for all the differences in scale, in landmass and demography, Australia and Nauru are long-standing friends and partners.
As I said in my speech this morning for ANZAC Day our shared history goes way, way back to World War 1.
Within 4 days of the start of the War HMAS Melbourne arrived off Nauru, sending a landing party to shore, to haul down the German flag.
We also know of at least 5 Australians who were executed while prisoners of war by Japanese soldiers during the occupation of Nauru.
We hope that one day they may be recovered for proper burial.
Our two countries have common values, a belief in the importance of parliamentary democracy, a joint commitment to being active, committed nations when it comes to international affairs.
And most of all, we are both Pacific nations – two island countries in the largest ocean on Earth.
The Australian Government very much appreciates Nauru’s continued support for regional processing arrangements.
However, as I have seen in this visit, our relationship extends well beyond this issue and we will continue to build on the many links between our two countries.
We have well established personal ties, including through education and business.
As our Governor-General noted recently, many Nauruans have studied in Australia, and I hope that our ties in this area remain in place for many, many years to come.
In fact during our discussions yesterday, President Waqa, you told me that 3 generations of your family have studied in Australia, in Orange!
I met Barina today and she told me she too had to get her coat to go to Orange, it is so cold!
Your Excellency, I now understand that it has also been very encouraging to see that there is increased participation in sports programs in Nauru, including in Australian Rules Football.
I know the recent visit by the Nauru All-Stars to play Bendigo Storm was a huge hit – and maybe next time these two sides play, the All-Stars might get a chance to beat the Storm.
But what stands out, for me, in the Australia-Nauru relationship, is the extent to which it is really is a partnership.
Australia has a very significant economy, and is, indeed, the biggest economy in the South Pacific.
Over the years, that economic strength has been part of our thinking in providing development assistance to Pacific nations.
We have wanted to help extend the benefits of size and scale to our many small neighbours, who are often distant from diverse sources of income.
These days, though, we see ourselves very much as partners with the nations of the Pacific, working to help support their sustainable development in ways that make sense to Pacific nations.
That sort of partnership is as clear here in Nauru as in almost any other Pacific nation.
This collaboration is very evident in the re-development of the hospital that I toured today.
This great new facility will vastly improve the quality of healthcare in Nauru.
Australia is a crucial aid partner for Nauru in providing vital health support including pharmaceutical testing, technical, police support and training and disaster risk management assistance due to climate change.
Australia continues to support Nauru by providing senior staff to work in Nauru government positions through our Pacific technical Assistance Mission.
We look forward to assisting Nauru as you prepare to host the 49th Pacific Island Forum Leaders’ meeting next year.
Can I just take this opportunity to particularly thank Minister Charmaine Scotty; we have done quite a few things together.
To Minister Cook and to Minister Kam in particular, for showing me those practical parts of our relationship and I very, very much appreciate the detailed discussion that we have been able to have, not just about what we are doing together at the moment but I think what we can do into the future.
Particularly to you Minister Scotty, thank you, we have been able to see so much- the education component, the learning village, the school, the Able Disable centre, the hospital.
We feel like we have been a double act all the last 3 days!
Thank you to all the Ministers who have taken the time to meet with me, but I just particularly wanted to extend my thanks.
As Your Excellency said when you were in Australia, we need to ensure that our friendship and our partnership remains strong in order to develop not just Nauru but the region – for our mutual regional prosperity and security.
My visit has been a true pleasure so far… as one of the few Ministers, I am sure, who has walked or climbed your ‘Bomber Track’!
I lay down a challenge to my fellow Ministers here in Nauru, come here and walk the Bomber Track by the time I next come to Nauru!
I feel that I have seen truly a fascinating and wonderful side of ‘Pleasant Island’ – your beautiful island nation.
Thank you for being such great hosts, and I look forward to talking to you all about new ways in which we can work together in the years ahead.
Thank you very, very much for your kind attention.
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