BEVERLEY O'CONNOR: Well it has been a year since Cyclone Winston killed 44 people and devastated large parts of Fiji, leaving thousands homeless and over a billion dollars in damages. Winston was the island's worst storm in recorded history affecting nearly two-thirds of the country. Australia's Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells was at a remembrance service in Suva today along with thousands of people affected. We spoke earlier about the rebuilding effort.
CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well the rebuilding is progressing, and of course from Australia's perspective, our commitment has been substantial. Our $35 million contribution which of course covered the very early phase of the lifesaving phase, so we are now into the sharp end of the reconstruction phase of about $20 million where we are rebuilding schools, rebuilding market places, health facilities, water management, major projects. Look, like all things it will take time for Fiji to recover from this devastation. It was the worst Cyclone to make landfall in the Pacific, ever. It was a hugely devastating event, and so it will take a long time. We are very pleased to be helping the people of Fiji. Australia is a good friend, we have been a good friend in good times and in bad, and we are very very pleased. But what was really touching today in the President's message, was not just the reflection on those who died and of course their families, many of their families were here and were present at the commemoration, but also to celebrate the resilience of the Fijian people, that in the face of adversity they have picked themselves up and are getting on with the job of rebuilding their country.
BEVERLY O'CONNOR: A year on of course and there are still thousands in tent homes and classrooms. What is your sense as to whether the Fijian Government is moving fast enough?
CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well certainly from our perspective we have committed our funds and we are working with the Fijian Government. There are definitely challenges that the Fijian Government is facing, it is not without its challenges of distance, of access, of access to building materials, there are challenges but the reality is that the Fijian Government are getting on with the job, they are meeting those challenges. Certainly from our perspective we are lending assistance, not only in the works that we have committed, but in technical assistance and in other assistance that we may be called upon from time to time to give to the Fijian Government.
BEVERLY O'CONNOR: Visiting a year ago of course, Australia was heavily involved in the recovery process, what is our responsibility to the rehabilitation at the moment?
CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: We are here to help, we have not only committed funding, but we have committed technical assistance. We also have our on-going overseas development assistance program, which we have with Fiji, and can I particularly commend the Australian public- not just the Australian public but also the Fijian Australian community -who immediately after Tropical Cyclone Winston galvanised into action to support Fiji and the Fijian people. What was really interesting was that Australians did not stop coming to Fiji, indeed tourism from Australia actually increased after Tropical Cyclone Winston. Australians went out and came to Fiji to help the Fijian people, to help the Fijian economy, particularly the tourism economy to get it back on its feet quickly. And that was a very practical demonstration, not only in terms of the generosity of funding and assistance that was given but in practical terms to help the Fijian people, help themselves get back on their feet.
ABC video: Fiji one year on from Cyclone Winston
- Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7110
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555