It is a real thrill for me to be here in Jamaica to mark Australia Day with you all.
Our two countries share a warmth and affection that extends back decades.
For many Australians — me included — it is our rivalry and friendship at the batting crease that best sums up the special bond between us.
We are both great sporting nations with a passion for cricket.
International sporting history was made back in 1960 when the first ever "tied" test match was played between Australia and the West Indies.
Perhaps Brendan Nash is the embodiment of the Australia-Jamaican bond through cricket.
Australians love their champions and West Indian players are certainly seen as that.
Chris Gayle is a great example — known for his ability to hit the ball further than anyone else on the planet, and we've seen that in the wonderful season with the Sydney Thunder in the fledgling Australian Twenty20 cricket competition.
But our ties extend back further and beyond cricket.
One of Australia’s first boxers, Peter Jackson, was from Jamaica.
Considered one of the greatest boxers of the late nineteenth century, Jackson has since been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
And earlier that century, another Jamaican pioneer made his mark in Australia, not in sport but as one of Australia’s first celebrities.
"Billy Blue", as he was known, was described as a "charming and eccentric character", who was appointed personally by Governor Macquarie to watch over ships and traffic in the Sydney Harbour and now enjoys his rightful place as a "foundation father" of New South Wales.
Jamaicans were also one of the many nationalities that came to the Victorian goldfields in the 19th century to find their fortune.
In fact, a Jamaican was among the 13 miners killed at the Eureka Stockade — a defining event for Australia’s democracy and our national identity.
And more recently, Jamaica gave Australia one of our greatest Queens of Pop, Marcia Hines.
Today, Australia is home to around 800 people from Jamaica.
The relatively small number reflects the great distance between our two countries.
But the contribution that Jamaican Australians have made to Australian society reflects what Jamaica is renowned for the world over.
Your sporting prowess.
Your strong and vibrant culture, including your incredible contribution to world music.
And your commitment to democracy and social justice.
And on this, I'd like to congratulate Jamaica on its upcoming 50th anniversary of independence.
The Australian Government is committed to ramping up its engagement with Jamaica as it is with the entire Caribbean.
It’s a relationship that Australia values.
And it is a relationship that is delivering for all of us.
Just over two years ago at CHOGM in Port of Spain, Australia and CARICOM made a commitment to improving and enhancing the relationship between Australia and the Caribbean.
At the core of this new phase in our relationship is our A$60m program of development cooperation that is being rolled out over four years.
As part of this our regional sport for development program which, in Jamaica, is using sport to promote HIV/AIDS education among young people.
Take also our work with Jamaica’s Youth Upliftment through Employment Program, where our funding will help just over two thousand youth secure work experience, apprenticeships and entrepreneurships.
And we've also helped with disaster preparedness and awareness activities.
One of the areas that we understand is most pressing for the Caribbean, and where the potential for shared knowledge is promising, is in the area of climate change.
Australia faces huge challenges in adapting to climate change itself.
And many of our closest neighbours are also small and developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate change.
Like the Caribbean, the Pacific Islands' contribution to pollution is small but the impact of climate change is, and will continue to be, immense for them.
Helping our Pacific partners better prepare and adapt to climate change is one of Australia’s development priorities in the region.
And we would like to share this experience with the Caribbean.
In May last year, Australia helped bring Caribbean and Pacific organisations together for a conference in Samoa, to assist cooperation on climate change adaptation and disaster risk management in small-island developing states.
It’s hoped that this will be one of many opportunities for Australia, the Caribbean and the South Pacific to come together on this issue.
Australia has provided $1.5 million to help build capacity of the Alliance of Small Island States, in recognition of its leadership in making sure the voice of small island developing states is heard loud and clear.
One of the best ways to build stronger and more enduring links is through education.
The Australia-Caribbean Awards program, provides 110 scholarships over four years to students from the Caribbean.
Already 65 high achievers, including eight Jamaican students, have been selected to take up these awards.
These are not just opportunities for Jamaica.
They also give Australians the opportunity to mix with your future leaders and become more familiar with Jamaica.
Despite the distance between our two countries, Australia and Jamaica have always shared a warm and friendly relationship.
It is our people who have driven our relationship in the past and it will be our people who will drive our relationship in the future.
And what better way to do this than to have a permanent diplomatic presence here in Jamaica.
It therefore gives me great pleasure to officially open the afternoon Australia’s Honorary Consulate here in Kingston.
I'm also pleased to announce the appointment of Mrs Marjory Kennedy as the new Honorary Consul.
Mrs Kennedy, as most of you know, is a well known Jamaican businesswoman with extensive experience in the Caribbean shipping industry.
She also sits on the board of several Jamaican companies and philanthropic organisations.
The Honorary Consulate here in Kingston will allow for conversations between our two countries to occur more frequently and easily.
It’s great to be marking Australia day here with you in Kingston.
And I'm sure this will be the first of many Australia Days that will be celebrated here.
- Parliamentary Secretary's Office: (02) 6277 4330
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