Well, can I start by thanking you Professor McIlgorm and I wish you well in your upcoming endeavours, especially in the work that you do with the Australia Awards and most especially now with Africa, a very important part of the work that we do especially as we continue our engagement with that important continent.

Can I also start by adding my acknowledgment of country and thank you for the kind invitation to join with you today.  It’s always a pleasure to come to the University of Wollongong and celebrate all the wonderful things that you do and your many achievements here.

Can I start by acknowledging Vice Chancellor Judy Raper; to ANCORS Director Stuart Kaye; all other distinguished professors who are joining us here today; Ann Fleming from ACIAR; Dr Neil Andrew and thank you very very much for your wonderful presentation; and to all the project staff who are here and most important, to the students who have joined us here today.

As I have often said, the stability and security of our region is second only to the defence of Australia and so stability, security and prosperity are the drivers of our overseas development assistance in the Pacific and a very important component of this is food security and effective fisheries coastal management plays a vital role in ensuring this.

ANCORS, Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security is an important partner in delivering Australia’s aid program through work to support Community-Based Fisheries Management in the Pacific in the past four years.

Amongst, Stuart, all the other work that we do together but this is in my patch a very important piece of work.

We are investing in the support of communities in the Solomon Islands, in Kiribati and Vanuatu to better manage their local fisheries.  And it’s really wonderful, having had the opportunity to visit these countries, some of which I visited on more than one occasion.

And when you do go out and you see the fisherman out there every day, you know that the work that we are doing here at Wollongong University will continue to support their livelihoods and to support their families.

This support and the work that we’re doing here will explore better ways that we can deliver community-based fisheries management at a scale that can then go across the region and as Minister for International Development and the Pacific, I’m very pleased to announce the new funding for the second phase of this initiative which will be framed within a New Song for Coastal Fisheries’ - Pathways to change which was adopted by the Pacific Fisheries Ministers in 2015.

Now the financial support for this project is significant.  Our aid program will provide $6 million through DFAT.  ACIAR will contribute $2 million of research funding.  The University of Wollongong is providing support of $2.5 million through staff time and scholarships and our collaborating partners in the Pacific region are contributing further in-kind support of $1.5 million.

Can I acknowledge all our partners in this project and thank WorldFish for being here as well today.

Now over 20% of people in most Pacific Island countries live in poverty and many more remain vulnerable to disasters, such as cyclones, severe storms, flooding and earthquakes.

In the Pacific, a key part of the solution is to continue to establish and maintain a secure and sustainable supply of fish for communities.

And can I reiterate your comments Professor Andrew that fish and fishing are culturally and nutritionally a central part of the Pacific way of life.

You described it as the politics of fishing.  They play an important role in delivering food security to communities and can I say, having attended the last Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Samoa, fish and fishing played a very very central part in those discussions.  So fish, fishing security and food security are vitally important elements to what is happening in the Pacific.

Of course, the fishing industry creates employment opportunities; it provides a source of income to tens of thousands of people.

But unfortunately as many of you know, rising populations and inadequate management practices have led to a decline in coastal fisheries.  Adverse climate events and other external threats further exacerbate the risk of fisheries not providing the economic, cultural and nutritional benefits for communities into the future.

So therefore, sustaining and securing a supply of coastal fish is recognised as a critical political priority.

And the challenge is stark.  By 2030, an additional 100,000 plus tonnes of fish per year will be needed across the region for good nutrition.

The impact of too few fish is felt beyond the domain of fisheries.

Many Pacific Island countries are affected by the double burden of malnutrition – their food lacks the nutrition needed for good health and leads to obesity, diabetes and other problems.

These non-communicable diseases, together with childhood stunting and anaemia, have major implications for economic growth and development.  Indeed, in some countries in the Pacific, the populations are facing NCD risk rates of up to 90%.

Ironically those most susceptible to food insecurity are those living in the rural areas, including fishing and fish farming communities, which, despite being the primary producers of fish, tend to be underprivileged socially, economically and politically.

This is why significant partnerships like this between ANCORS, the Australian Government and Pacific partners from the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Vanuatu have become so important.  Not just for the contribution to those countries but for the impact that this work will have for the broader Pacific region.

ANCORS first partnered with the Australian Government through ACIAR in 2013 under a $6.8 million Community Based Fisheries Management project funded by our aid program and through this project, ANCORS and its partners in the region, including SPC, the Pacific Community and Worldfish, brought together national agencies, international bodies and expertise to focus on improving coastal fisheries management in the Pacific, especially in Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

Since receiving the initial funding, the partnership has built the foundations for improving the productivity and resilience of fisheries and food and nutrition security in the Pacific region and one of the things that surprised me greatly when I became Minister in this portfolio almost two years ago was the fact that few areas in the Pacific had effective coastal management plans. 

While most of you gathered here are familiar with some of these achievements, I do want to take the opportunity to recognise a few of these to date — after all it’s because of these achievements that we are all gathered here today.

This partnership has supported the development of community-based fisheries management plans to deliver long-term sustainability by banning destructive fishing methods and closing sensitive areas in communities in Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

It has also supported the reduction of harvesting of mangroves for firewood through the training in the use of “Kiko” (kee-koe) stoves in various communities.

It has built capacity for in-country staff and stakeholders working in fisheries, in agriculture, in the environment and development sectors through gender-related workshops and training sessions in both Kiribati and Solomon Islands.

It is raising awareness of the role of gender in leadership and decision making at community meetings in marine area management planning in various countries and has also seen the nomination of the first woman, Grace Orirana, to serve on the Malaita Province Fisheries Advisory Council in the Solomon Islands.

There are many different stories, many individual stories and I’d just like to share one of them with you and it’s the story of Rutiana Teibaba.  Rutiana lives in Kiribati.  A few years ago she was unemployed and looking for opportunities.

She attended an information and training session run by ANCORS about improving fisheries management in communities.

Since then she has enrolled in community development at the Australia-Pacific Technical College to develop further her learnings and work in this area, not only to meet her own basic needs, but also contribute to her community by improving their fisheries management.

But it is the innovative and holistic approach of the Pacific Community-led New Song strategy, which was developed with support of this project that has highlighted the unique opportunities we have ahead of us.

The New Song strategy recognises that the populations of many Pacific Island Countries are growing, not just in those countries but in the various territories, but coastal fisheries resources are declining.

These resources provide the primary or secondary source of income for up to 50% of households and between 50 and 90% of the animal-sourced protein consumed.

Put simply, the strategy identified the need for a new approach - a grass-roots up approach.

At times we see projects fail because the community was not consulted or it wasn’t involved.  However, with a community-driven approach, the project has a much stronger chance of succeeding.

Recognising the innovation of a strategy like this, I am delighted to announce $8 million in Australian Government funding over four years through DFAT and ACIAR to renew the partnership with ANCORS, WorldFish and our Pacific partners.

This new funding will further develop and nurture the structures, processes and capacity necessary to progress community-based fisheries management in Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu as well as progress regional policy change throughout the Pacific.

With this funding, we will see a much more holistic approach to coastal fisheries management where it doesn’t just stop at ensuring better productivity, but partners will work at the community, national and regional levels to provide better access to fish and better community knowledge about how fish can improve health outcomes.

The project will be able to take on learnings from previous work, building on capacity, especially with individuals and filling in the gaps where knowledge is needed to focus on gender and social inclusion to accelerate development.

Can I conclude by congratulating all of the partners who have contributed to building and maintaining this great collaborative relationship.

I look forward to hearing about the outcomes you produce to deliver a stronger, coordinated approach to coastal fisheries development and management in the Pacific and your work Stuart, in particular the work that you will do in promoting nutrition security in the Pacific food system which is vitally important to the future of the Pacific.

I know that the work that is being done here will ultimately make a practical and lasting impact to the lives of so many people in the Pacific and to so many communities throughout our region.

Thank you for your kind attention.

[Ends]

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