Thank you very, very much High Commissioner. To you, Prime Minister Tuilaepa, welcome!
You don’t need a welcome to Australia - you’re a frequent visitor, but always wonderful to see you here, especially on this very, very important occasion.
Can I also acknowledge the presence of Senator Claire Moore, the Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific; to you, High Commissioner and to all the other members of the Diplomatic Corp here; Pastor and the other members of the Clergy; to the members of the Samoan-Australian community; and also to the Royal Military Band, thank you very, very much for your wonderful playing this morning; many distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
I’m delighted to be here this morning to speak on behalf of the Australian Government at the opening of this High Commission complex.
What an impressive building it is!
The complex beautifully and seamlessly melds the traditional and the modern.
Its architecture pays homage to the country it represents, while incorporating elements of the country it faces.
It is a High Commission of which Samoa can be proud.
This building is a symbol.
It is a symbol of the close partnership between the governments and peoples of Samoa and Australia.
Of course, we are more than partners, we are friends.
This opening is a celebration amongst friends – celebrating all that we have achieved together.
Indeed, it is fitting that this complex has been completed in 2017.
September this year marks the 40th anniversary since the Australian High Commission first opened its doors in Samoa.
Today, Australia has more than 55,000 citizens or residents of Samoan descent – many of them; I am pleased to say, in my home state of New South Wales.
Samoans citizens and residents of all walks of life have made a remarkable contribution to our nation.
We are all aware of the many players of Samoan heritage who have made their mark on the sporting field in Australia.
We have too many great Rugby Union stars to name, Prime Minister!
Indeed, Australians do not wish to be reminded particularly of July 2011, when your Manu Samoan national rugby team triumphed over the Wallabies, in a thrilling – and for the Wallabies, rather bruising – 32 to 23 victory!
Our strong community ties form the bedrock for cooperation by our governments.
Parliamentary links between Australia and Samoa are thriving.
These links are bipartisan.
The presence of Senator Moore here today is testimony to that.
They confirm a broad and strong Australian commitment to build our relationship with Samoa.
I was fortunate to travel to Samoa in December last year as part of an Australian bipartisan delegation, and of course, that delegation was composed of all women as we descended upon Samoa.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong, Claire Moore (my Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) and myself.
Of course we enjoyed our visit very, very much and we were grateful for the warmth and kindness we received from all Samoans that we met.
I was then pleased to visit Samoa again just a month later for the
Green Climate Fund Board Meeting.
We certainly enjoy our visits to Samoa and we know that our Governor General had a very, very successful visit to Samoa recently.
During my visit to Samoa, I have been privileged to meet numerous distinguished Samoan Australian Awards alumni who have studied in Australia – as well as many talented young Australian New Colombo Plan scholars studying in Samoa.
The friendships they have made will continue to benefit both countries for decades to come.
Shared sorrow, too, has brought us together.
We saw this in the aftermath of the devastation caused by Cyclone Evan in December of 2012.
The Government of Samoa has worked tirelessly to restore the communities affected by the cyclone.
We have sought to work hand-in-hand in partnership with you.
Under Australia’s Cyclone Evan Recovery Program, Australia was glad to be able to support Samoa to rebuild, and build back better, five schools and five district hospitals damaged by the cyclone.
We continue to lend a helping hand when needed in partnership with you.
We will never forget the generosity of Samoans who donated $100,000 to the Australian flood appeal in early 2011.
Samoans in Australia have also helped to make Australia’s Seasonal Worker Programme such a success.
The Programme, which started in 2012, has provided Pacific island workers the opportunity to live and work in Australia.
It also enables Australian employers to access short-term labour in rural and regional areas to meet their seasonal harvest needs.
As at 30 June this year, 808 Samoans have participated in the Programme.
Before coming to a close, I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the late Lemalu Tate Simi, former High Commissioner to Australia.
Australia warmly welcomed his appointment as High Commissioner to Australia in 2009.
To you Peseta, Australians who knew your late husband share Samoa’s sad loss.
He was a leading representative for Samoa and the wider Pacific community.
He was energetic, dedicated and an eloquent advocate for Samoan interests in Australia and highly respected amongst the Diplomatic Corps and the wider community across Australia.
As many of you will know, he was involved in getting this project off the ground.
It is fitting, Peseta, that you are here today to see the fruits of his labour, and to you our High Commissioner in continuing with his work.
Once again, I thank you for your welcome here today, and for the great honour that you have given me in inviting me to speak at the opening of your new Samoan High Commission complex and to share your celebrations.
May the spirit of friendship between the people of Samoa and the people of Australia grow even stronger.
Thank you for your kind attention.
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