CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: It was sombre, but at the same time it was not just a commemoration it was actually a celebration of the resilience of the Fijian people. We had people who came in from the villages who had lost their loved ones, so the roll call of the 44 dead was read out. There were people who were families and friends of those people who came to the ceremony. It was a lovely, moving ceremony and it was a real honour to be present on this very, very important occasion.
BRUCE HILL: Is Australia still providing help to Fiji to recover from Winston a year on?
CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well a year on, this of course was a cyclone which caused so much damage and destruction and as a long-standing friend and partner of Fiji, we are here to support the people of Fiji in good times and in bad. There was the assistance that we gave, the immediate assistance which was the sort of lifesaving relief. Then of course there was the early recovery and we gave about 10 million dollars in relation to, things like medical teams, educational materials, food security, medical equipment and vaccines. And then there is the Australian Defence Force support which was considerable. I mean we sent 60 tonnes of emergency relief and humanitarian supplies with (HMAS) Canberra, 520 tonnes of humanitarian supplies and equipment were delivered and approximately 1000 ADF personnel, helicopters, aircraft. And now of course we are in the recovery and reconstruction phase which is where we are rebuilding destroyed market places, we are restoring community water and sanitation systems, we are building back better schools that were destroyed by the Cyclone, and we are seeking to rebuild health facilities and biomedical equipment. So that is on-going, obviously in the immediate aftermath, all our assistance reached over 200,000 people and as I said, our assistance was in the immediate lifesaving relief phase, in the early recovery and in long- term recovery and reconstruction.
BRUCE HILL: How has Australia’s aid been received in Fiji by the Government and the people?
CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well it has been very, very well received and indeed His Excellency the President made particular mention at the assistance they have gotten from countries like Australia. I have myself today met with the Prime Minister, His Excellency Frank Bainimarama, I have met with various Ministers, and there is general gratefulness to Australia for being there, for helping. I met the defence minister, the head of the defence forces- genuine gratitude to Australia for being there as a long-standing friend as I said in good times and in bad.
BRUCE HILL: We heard earlier the speech made by His Excellency the President; he made prominent mention of the issue of climate change. Has Australia’s perceived position on climate change, in particular support for coal generated power, harmed Australia’s relationships with Fiji and other Pacific countries?
CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well our situation in the Pacific on climate issues is very much about assisting the Pacific countries to effectively, in practical ways, either mitigate or adapt. And that is basically what we are doing. As the co-chair of the Green Climate Fund, we have been very specific in assisting our Pacific neighbours to prepare projects for consideration by the Green Climate Fund. But of course part of climate events such as tropical Cyclone Winston, the reality is Bruce, that there will be another cyclone, there will be another disaster and so therefore what is really important as part of the whole issue of climate related events is disaster preparedness in the Pacific. That is really where we are supporting both the national and the local disaster preparedness, the response and the recovery. Let me give you the practicalities of this; for example we have two Australian civilian core disaster management specialists that are located here in Fiji’s National Disaster Management Office. We have a regional specialist that is located with the Secretariat for the Pacific Community. We fund organisations like Red Cross and the Australian Humanitarian Partnership to enable them to be prepared for the next event. Also what we are doing is working with our Pacific neighbours on things like a register of disaster response capabilities, the sort of assets that they may have which could be deployed, and this is all part of the work that we do, part of the Pacific Islands Forum. At the last meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum there was a regional partnership framework that was agreed to on disaster preparedness, so these are the practicalities of what we are doing to prepare countries in the Pacific, prepare countries like Fiji and other countries which are in the most disaster prone - one of the most disaster prone areas in the world, prepare for the next climatic event.
- Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7110
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555