“Australia has announced its agreement for the servicing and maintenance of all patrol boats under the Pacific Patrol Boat Programme in Fiji’s revitalised shipbuilding, slipway and ship repair and maintenance facilities. This not only serves Fiji’s priorities but also our responsibility as the regional hub, a regional port of entry and trans-shipment centre for the region.”

This was shared by Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka while highlighting recent developments on the elevated and renewed Vuvale Partnerships between Fiji and Australia in his ministerial statement Monday.

PM Rabuka noted the longstanding relationship between Fiji and Australia known as Vuvale, has encountered its share of challenges despite political disruptions as well as fluctuations in defence relations, however collaborations in areas such as scholarships and humanitarian aid have continued.

The renewed partnership, signed on the 20th of October 2023, by Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese and Prime Minister Rabuka has introduced several key initiatives.

The Partnership is built on five main pillars:

1.Strengthening People to People Links: This includes facilitating easier two-way travel through the Pacific Engagement Visa Programme and fostering engagement between First Nation’s Peoples.

2.Deepening Economic Relationships: The partnership will expand opportunities for two-way investment and support private sector growth. This is further attributed to the expansion of the PALM Visa Scheme and the continued support for infrastructure development through the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific (AIFFP).

3.Enhancing Security Cooperation: Fiji and Australia will work closely on defence, border security and cyber security. The Australian Government has also donated 14 additional protected Mobility Vehicles to support Fiji’s International peacekeeping operations.

4.Cooperation on Regional and International Issues: Both countries commit to tackling the challenges facing the Blue Pacific Continent, including climate change and regional security.

5.Sustainable Human Development: The partnership aims to strengthen health systems and education cooperation and promote gender equality and social inclusion. This is further evident in the recent agreement for a $14.7 million (US$7.35 million) infrastructure master plan for the Colonial War Memorial Hospital.

In addition to these pillars, two memoranda of understanding (MOUs) were signed recently under the partnerships. The MOU on Port Infrastructure and Services aims to support Fiji’s maritime needs, including a master plan for the Lautoka Port.

PM Rabuka highlighted this will upgrade Lautoka port and enhance its international and domestic port operations.

The second MOU focuses on Cyber Security Cooperation, which PM Rabuka highlighted as critical in protecting Fiji’s information systems.

“Both countries have experienced significant cyber incidents and this MOU establishes a framework for cooperation on cybersecurity and critical technologies”.

Concluding his address, PM Rabuka expressed gratitude for the ongoing support and cooperation from Australia.

“The elevated Vuvale Partnership is a testament to our shared values and mutual respect. It is a partnership out future generations will be proud to inherit,” he said.