By John Feakes, Australian High Commissioner to Fiji
The bonds between Australia and Fiji are deep. We recently marked 50 years of bilateral relations, as Fiji celebrated its 50th Anniversary of independence in 2020. We are Vuvale, and our shared friendship has helped see us through the unprecedented global challenges of recent times. Indeed, we have strengthened our resolve and worked together to help each other and our region.
A reunion between friends, partners, and Vuvale, the recent visit by Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, His Excellency General David Hurley (Retd), reaffirms the strength of the connection between us.
When difficulties arise, we back each other. We gratefully remember the RFMF “Bula Force” who came to the aid of people in Australia during our devastating Black Summer Bushfires in 2019. And again, this year, the RFMF personnel who worked with the Australian Defence Force to assist flood affected communities in Queensland and New South Wales. Likewise, Australia was proud to play its part following Tropical Cyclones Winston (2016), Yasa (2020) and Ana (2021), responding quickly to support Fiji in times of need.
Australia was also there for Fiji as it battled the 2021 COVID-19 outbreak. We provided more than 1.4 million vaccine doses; over 97 tonnes of personal protective equipment and medical supplies; and deployed three Australian Medical Assistance teams, allowing Fiji to deliver a swift and effective world-class vaccine rollout; reopen borders to international tourism; and kickstart economic recovery.
But COVID didn’t just affect health – it flattened economies as well. Australia is investing in Fiji’s future through the provision of around FJD$258 million (US$182 million) in fiscal support via grants, which reflects Australia’s commitment to supporting Pacific-led economic recovery.
Our people-to-people links have strong foundations. Over 3,000 Australians are resident in Fiji and over 60,000 people born in Fiji live in Australia. Hundreds of thousands of Australians have visited Fiji and fallen in love with it. We look forward to visitor numbers returning to pre-COVID levels, so Australians can contribute to Fiji’s economic recovery. We welcome Fijian students and workers to Australia, and Australians are thrilled to watch Fijian athletes in the NRL and the Drua and Fijiana Drua rugby union teams.
We have enhanced our security cooperation under the Vuvale Partnership, working together on disaster relief in Tonga and support for law and order in Solomon Islands. Australia’s support for the recently commissioned Black Rock camp in Nadi shows our commitment to Fiji’s own security, and its role in regional defence and security and peacekeeping.
However, it’s not just what we do, but how we do it, that is important – and Australia and Fiji’s relationship is underpinned by genuine respect and affection. Because of this, our Vuvale Partnership continues to go from strength to strength; allowing deeper cooperation, consultation, and friendship between our two nations. The Pacific is our home, our futures are linked. It’s in the interests of all the members of our Pacific family to live in a region that is peaceful, stable, and secure..