Pacific Nations Security Leaders Share COVID-19 Lessons

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Left to right (Standing) (Ministry of Customs & Revenue) Alvin Onosemo (ACEO Border Protection), (Royal Australian Navy) Chief Petty Officer Damien Powell, (Royal Australian Navy) Lieutenant Commander Andrew Dobb, (Australian Federal Police) Mission Commander Steve Newburn, (Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade) Assistant Chief Executive Officer - Regional Relations Desna Solofa, (Ministry of Customs & Revenue) DCEO Talaitupu Lia Left to right (Sitting) (Ministry of Customs & Revenue) CEO Matafeo Avalisa, (Ministry of the Prime Minister) CEO Agafili Tomaimano Shem Leo, (Samoa Police Service) Commissioner Fuavailiili Egon Keil

Delegates from Pacific Island nations’ security agencies have connected from across the region for the second Joint Heads of Pacific Security event focused on responding to the collective challenge of COVID-19

The Chief of the Defence Force General Angus Campbell AO DSC, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece P Kershaw APM, and Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram APM, joined security leaders from 24 nations and territories, and five regional bodies for the strategic-level dialogue.

The themes included the areas of border security, maritime security, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) and how to become better than the sum of our parts.

The Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell reflected on the common security challenges faced in the COVID-19 environment.

“COVID-19 has presented a number of challenges to maritime and border security efforts, which have affected nations in various ways,” General Campbell said.

“The impacts of the pandemic were not made any easier by the devastation of Tropical Cyclone Harold and the Australian Defence Force was proud to work with Fiji and Vanuatu in their humanitarian and disaster relief responses.”

AFP Commissioner Reece P Kershaw said the Australian Federal Police remain closely engaged with Pacific policing and security partners during this challenging time.

“Police across the Pacific are part of our policing family. Our strong and enduring partnership will ensure our region’s national security interests are safeguarded today and well into the future,” AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw said.

ABF Commissioner Michael Outram said that the Australian Border Force was pleased to work closely with law enforcement agencies across the Pacific.

“Now more than ever, our ability to work collaboratively will be vital as we strive towards common goals such as regional security maintenance. From the ABF’s perspective, we are all only as good as our collective efforts,” ABF Commissioner Outram said.

“For example, the ABF is committed to delivering improved intelligence sharing between our Pacific nation families. As we move into recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, our borders remain critical national assets to protect and manage well.”

Japan and the United States joined the Joint Heads of Pacific Security event for the first time; along with representatives from the Oceania Customs Organisation, Pacific Immigration Development Community, Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police, Forum Fisheries Agency and Pacific Island Forum.

The event is part of the Australian Government’s Pacific Step-up and brings together the leaders of Pacific security agencies to facilitate discussion of security challenges and collectively build resilience for the future.