Address to the Africa Down Under Conference 2023

  • Speech

Good morning

Ministers, delegates, members of the diplomatic corps, and distinguished guests.

I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet today, the Whadjuk Nyoongar people.

I pay my respects to the Elders past and present and acknowledge their continuing connection to this land.

I also acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here today.

I acknowledge His Excellency Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana and keynote speaker for this year's conference…

…Bill Repard, Executive Chairman of Paydirt Media, organiser of this event…

…My colleagues, the Honourable Madeleine King, Australian Minister for Resources, who we just heard from…

…And the Honourable Bill Johnston MLA, West Australian Minister of Mines and Petroleum, and Energy.

It is a pleasure to be here with you for Africa Down Under.

Australia is home to the world's oldest continuing culture on earth.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were Australia's first diplomats and traders, with connections spanning the globe.

We continue to learn from their complex knowledge and experience, and incorporate First Nations views into policy and practice.

Our diversity also connects us to every corner of the globe.

This includes about 400,000 Australians with heritage from the continent of Africa.

People of African descent have lived in, and contributed to, Australia for hundreds of years.

In my capacity as an MP, I'm proud to represent one of Australia's most diverse electorates.

My community is home to one of Australia's largest African-Australian diasporas.

In fact two thirds of the community I live in were born overseas, or have at least one parent born overseas.

Today African diaspora communities in Australia play a significant role in welcoming new migrants, helping them feel at home, and providing advocacy for African-Australian communities across the country.

I acknowledge the substantial contributions of the African Australian community, and their role in connecting Australia to the continent of Africa.

In my sixteen months as Assistant Foreign Minister, I've had the privilege of visiting Africa twice…

…travelling to Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco and South Africa.

In addition to ministerial colleagues who attended CHOGM and COP27 Summits on the African continent in 2022.

I was the first Australian minister to meet with delegations to the African Union Summit in half a decade.

During this engagement, and in others since, we have reinforced our belief in a rules-based international system…

…a system that benefits all countries, leaves no country behind and ensures large countries do not dominate over smaller ones.

Australia's relationship with Africa is so important in the pursuit of these values we share.

And we are committed to building on our existing relationships in Africa, and to creating new ones.

Since 2016-17, our goods and services trade with Africa has increased by more than 50 per cent.

It is currently valued at more than 11 billion dollars.

Mining is, of course, a huge area of cooperation, with large numbers of Australian companies involved in mining in Africa…

…an investment worth 40 billion dollars.

We are committed to growing this investment, and working together to make the sector more resilient.

We're also working together to grow the sector – and one area of growth will come from increased efforts to tackle climate change.

Critical minerals and energy transition minerals are essential for technologies like storage batteries, electric vehicle motors, solar panels and wind turbines.

Demand for these technologies is projected to skyrocket over the next three decades.

And Australia and our African partners are poised to seize the opportunities in this sphere.

Sustainable development and high Environmental, Social and Governance standards are at the heart of Australia's resource industry, both domestically and in Africa.

We're continuing to strengthen these standards to make our domestic mining sector more resilient.

And Australia's new Critical Minerals Strategy will ensure Government action promotes the livelihoods of our communities, small remote towns, women's economic empowerment and First Nation peoples.

Alongside opportunities come risks we need to carefully manage.

And later this month, we will host the West Africa Mining Security Conference in Ghana…

…where we will focus on overcoming threats to mining personnel and operations in Africa.

The scourge of terrorism also remains a threat to peace and security in parts of Africa.

We have partnered with African countries to fight terrorism, including in the Sahel.

Australia has invested over $8 million in counter-terrorism and countering violent extremism programming efforts since 2020-21, including through the International Counter-Terrorism Academy in Côte d'Ivoire.

We're also working to expand our economic relations beyond the mining sector.

At the African Union summit, I had the immense pleasure of meeting Secretary General Wamkele Mene of the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat to discuss these opportunities.

Australia supports the implementation of an African Continental Free Trade Area.

It would be transformative for the Indo-Pacific and the Indian Ocean Rim.

Particularly for the young people of our shared regions.

Seventy per cent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of thirty…

…increasingly more educated and joining the growing middle class.

These young people are our future leaders.

And we must do everything we can to make their future a prosperous one.

Education is a key part of how we equip young people to deal with the complex challenges of today and the future.

Australia wants to share our knowledge and expertise in areas of common interest…

… including through short courses available to African participants under the Australia Awards Africa program.

The Australia Awards provide scholarships to students from Africa to undertake a master's or short course program in Australia.

The Awards are a channel to share knowledge and experience, contributing to our pursuit of sustainable development.

Each scholar becomes a direct connection between Australia and their home country in Africa.

I'm also pleased that later this year, African participants will join a Mining Governance Short Course…

…aimed at supporting governments to sustainably develop and regulate their mining sectors.

We know the impacts of climate change are being felt acutely across the world.

Food insecurity, displacement and health complications are rising alongside temperatures.

That's why since September 2022, Australia has provided 40 million dollars to humanitarian partners to respond to the growing food insecurity in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

This is in addition to the 10.45 million dollars we provided to ICRC and UNHCR to help people impacted by Sudan crisis.

Climate change and disasters disproportionately impact women and girls – so we've also provided 2 million dollars through UN Women to commence a 'Women's Resilience to Disasters' pilot project in Malawi following Cyclone Freddy.

We've also provided assistance through our Africa Development program, the Direct Assistance Programs and the Australian NGO Cooperation Program…

… through which Australia provided a total of more than 100 million dollars to the African continent in our last financial year.

We want our development program to improve people's lives; advance our mutual interests; and embody Australia's values, reflecting who we are.

The Australian government has not always engaged with Africans as deeply or as knowledgeably as we could have.

We are working to change that.

We are listening to African diaspora in our communities across Australia and to our African counterparts internationally

…and we are committed to working with you to achieve stronger relationships with Africa and African countries.

Relationships which will underpin a world of peace and prosperity…

…with a future where sovereignty is respected and no country dominates over another.

Thank you, and enjoy the rest of the conference.

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