Opening of the Australian High Commission Chancery in Nairobi, Kenya

  • Speech, check against delivery

Good evening Cabinet Secretary for Foreign and Diaspora Affairs Dr Alfred Mutua, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

I also acknowledge the presence of Ambassadors and High Commissioners from Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda, countries to which this diplomatic mission is also accredited.

All protocols observed.

I'm delighted to be here to formally open the new premises of our Australian High Commission in Nairobi.

This building is our diplomatic heart in East Africa, representing Australia – and Australians – in the region.

Australia is reinvigorating our relationships in Africa.

And from this building we will work, with commitment and energy, to strengthen our ties.

The work of this High Commission covers a huge area, vast in its diversity and its geography.

It is a region of over 200 million people – gathered in cities, towns and communities.

From tropical forests rising out of the Rift, to the coral coastline of the East African shore.

From the snow-crowned peak of Kilimanjaro, to the waters of Lake Tanganyika.

And we stand here in Nairobi, one of the fastest growing cities in the world, in one of the fastest growing parts of the world…

…where this building – this High Commission – is Australia's HQ.

And our High Commissioner, whom many of you know, Luke Williams, is Australia's eyes, ears and voice.

So, Luke, keep up the good work.

It's a big job.

Let me say one more thing about this wonderful building:

The design of this chancery evokes the colours of the Australian landscape – the deserts, forests and gorges of Australia.

And we're proud to exhibit the works of Australian and East Africa artists.

One of my favourites is a collaborative artwork between young artists from Uganda, Kenya, and the Indigenous Australian artist Shane Mankitya Cook.

It was created through an artist exchange program in Lake Turkana in 2019.

Cabinet Secretary Mutua, can I say what an honour it is to have you join us tonight.

We had our meeting this morning.

It has been a privilege to listen to you, to hear about your priorities, the things that matter to your communities, and to discuss how we can work together.

This morning, I also had the opportunity to meet the Speaker of Kenya's Parliament, the Hon. Moses Wetang'ula the Deputy Speaker of National Assembly, Gladys Boss Shollei..

 ..and the Cabinet Secretary for Education, HE Mr Ezekiel Machogu.

Again, it was an opportunity to listen, to understand.

And, over the weekend, I attended the African Union Summit in Ethiopia.

I was able to talk to leaders on how Australia can engage on issues important to Africa.

I see big opportunities for the Australia-Kenya relationship. 

Australian and Kenya businesses have much to offer each other, building on decades of trade and investment links.

Australian company Base Resources has invested significantly in Kenya's economy through its mineral sands operation in Kwale County – Kenya's largest mining project.

Australian mining firms have set global standards for environmental, social and governance programmes.

They have a reputation for corporate responsibility and integrity, for welfare and safety, for training and developing their workforce, and for ensuring environmental sustainability and protection.

Base employs 98 percent Kenyan nationals (two-thirds from Kwale itself).

But it's not only Australian companies that are helping drive Kenya's growth and employment, it's individuals too.

On my last visit to Kenya in 2018, with a bipartisan parliamentary delegation, I had the privilege to meet Stuart Barden.

Stuart is an Australian farmer.

Twelve years ago, Stuart and his family left their family farm in Australia to start a new life on the Athi plains.

Atop semi-arid and barren land, Stuart's farm is a dryland farm.

Turns out Australia and Kenya's climates are quite similar.

We both have harsh summers. And, we can suffer long droughts.

Stuart learnt his low-rainfall farming skills in Australia, and then he honed them here in Kenya.

Now, his farm grows over 3,000 acres of crops per season, on dry, barren land.

His style of farming transforms the land to make it more fertile.

And in addition to the wheat, chickpea and green grams he grows, Stuart also supplies fodder to local dairy producers.

Stuart says he shares all that he's learnt about farming with anyone who cares to ask.

So, he says, they can repeat his successes, but not his failures.

Through a project run by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research here at the High Commission…

…Australia is proud to support Stuart's farm to develop new and sustainable agricultural practices, adapted to local conditions in Kenya.

Another area where Australia and Kenya can partner up is on multilateral issues.

There are huge opportunities for us to work together on consequential matters like climate change, counter-terrorism, and strengthening and maintaining the international rules-based order.

We are already working together closely on projects to strengthen East African resilience to terrorism and violent extremism.

Australia, for example, funds the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, to support local partnerships in Kenya to counter violent extremism.

This High Commission also represents Australia in the UN agencies headquartered in Nairobi – the only UN Headquarters in the Global South.

The UN Environment Programme plays a critical role in the fight against climate change – a priority issue for all our countries.

I want to also take this opportunity to recognise the leadership of Kenya on the international stage.

For the past two years, Kenya has held a seat in the UN Security Council.

During its term, Kenya has been a champion for the region.

An African voice in the world's top security body.

Australia strongly believes in the necessity of African voices in global leadership, particularly in debates about the continent.

It is Africans – and no one else – who should decide Africa's future.

That's why Australia continues to call for permanent African representation on the UN Security Council.

Finally, I want to talk about education.

We are proud that from as early as the 1960s, Australia has been able to welcome some of the best and brightest from Kenya…

…in our schools, our vocational institutions, and our universities.

I want to thank Kenya and Kenyan students for choosing Australia as a study destination.

When students study in Australia, they don't simply take home the skills they need…

…they also make invaluable contributions to Australia's community…

…forge lifelong friendships…

…and bring back plenty of fond memories.

Cabinet Secretary, I hope you don't mind if I reveal to everyone that you once studied in Australia.

You completed your PhD at the University of Western Sydney in 2002.

Your old professor, Hart Cohen, recalls you fondly as a highly motivated and enthusiastic student, skilled in videography and web publishing, the then cutting edge of media and communications.

Your thesis argued, among other things, that African voices needed to tell Africa's stories.

The continent's stories could not be told through the same old outside narratives.

And you put your ideas into practice.

Working briefly as a journalist on Australian television, you helped Australians to understand Africa's history, challenges, and triumphs.

Cabinet Secretary, you are a true friend to Australia.

And now, as one of Kenya's leaders, we look forward to working with you in the many years to come.

Ladies and gentlemen, your excellencies, and representatives from Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda,

Let this new High Commission building be a symbol of Australia's enduring commitment to East Africa.

From here, we will grow our trade and investment ties, work together on the global stage, learn from, and listen to, each other.

So, on that note, it is with great pride…

…that I formally declare the new premises of our Australian High Commission in Nairobi open.

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