2020 Australia Day Speech by Australian High Commissioner to Samoa HE Ms Sara Moriarty
Reverend Mauga Motu
Your Highness the Head of State Tuimaleali’ifano Va’aletoa Sualauvi Lelua and Masiofo
Hon Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi
Hon Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa
Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament
Government officials & diplomatic colleagues
Distinguished guests, including fellow Australians
Talofa Lava. Manuia le afiafi.
It is a great privilege to be hosting the Australia Day reception this evening in Samoa, one of Australia’s closest and oldest partners in the Pacific.
Firstly, a word of gratitude for your flexibility in attending this evening rather than last night.
The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women is very sorry she could not be here this evening to celebrate our national day with you. Due to the ongoing bushfire situation in Australia, Minister Payne was not able to proceed with her visit to Samoa at this time, but we hope she will be able to visit in the near future.
The depth and strength of our relationship with Samoa reflects our shared interests, common values and our community bonds.
On 26 January each year, Australians get together at home and around the world, with family and friends, to celebrate Australia Day. The theme for this year is “Reflect. Respect. Celebrate. We are all part of the story.” In this case, the “all” is all Australians – a message of inclusion and embracing of our unique indigenous heritage and the enormous contribution that Australians from all origins make to our vibrant and dynamic country.
Australia Day is an opportunity to reflect on our history, our heritage, and the values that Australians hold dear…
…values of fairness, tolerance and diversity, and of perseverance and support for one another.
We acknowledge and pay our respect to Australian Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people, whose culture and deep connection to land has enriched our country for more than 60,000 years.
And we celebrate the strength and resilience of our communities.
We have seen this courage, resilience and determined Australian spirit in response to the terrible bushfires this summer that have devastated lives, towns and wildlife in Australia.
Australia is deeply grateful to the Government and people of Samoa for your very generous support and sympathy in response to the current bushfires in Australia.
I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the remarkable service and sacrifice of the men and women – many of whom are volunteers – who are fighting these fires, supporting communities, providing medical assistance, and helping our wildlife. In particular I would like to acknowledge the sacrifice of three US citizens who sadly and tragically lost their lives in Australia this week while they were there to help us out and extinguish the fires.
The fires have wrought destruction on communities, but we are a resilient people used to harsh conditions. Many parts of Australia remain unaffected by the fires, and we still have glorious beaches, fantastic food and are open for business. Our resilience, determination and energy will pull us through.
Here in Samoa, also, the government and communities have demonstrated remarkable resilience and strength in the face of the devastating measles crisis. I express my sincere condolences for the terrible loss of life caused by the measles outbreak and my best wishes for those still recovering from the disease.
Australia was pleased to offer a hand of support to the Samoan Government to assist in the management of the health emergency.
Our Australian doctors and nurses were honoured to work alongside their Samoan counterparts to provide lifesaving medical assistance.
I was also pleased to see a strong response from the Australian people, including fundraising by the Australian rugby league community, led by Samoan-born, Australian rugby league star Martin Taupau.
Despite challenging times for both our countries, 2019 was a successful and productive year for the relationship.
Australia’s development assistance continued to make a real difference to the lives of everyday Samoans, providing practical and sustainable support and capacity building in agriculture, health, education, disability inclusion, gender equality, civil society and environmental management.
We also welcomed Manu Samoa to Sydney for a terrific game against the Wallabies in September, cheered on by thousands of Manu supporters in the crowd, including their number one supporter, Prime Minister Tuilaepa.
I was delighted to join Prime Minister Morrison, Minister Payne and Prime Minister Tuilaepa at the game, and I’m looking forward to continuing to build on these sporting links between our two countries. After all, sport is a big part of Samoan life, as it is in Australia.
And so I also congratulate Samoa on its very successful hosting of the Pacific Games last year.
Our connections with Samoa are much more than sport though.
We’re strengthening maritime security, with the handover of a new Guardian-class patrol boat Nafanua II.
We’re creating new economic opportunities through the Pacific Labour Scheme, with Samoa currently the largest sending country under the Scheme enabling Samoans to access employment opportunities in Australia, and contribute remittances back to their communities at home.
We’re investing in high quality infrastructure, with the Maota Fono opening last year, and the launch of the Radio 2AP tower, which will ensure Samoa is equipped to respond to emergencies.
This investment will continue with Legislative Assembly Office currently under design, and our investment, in partnership with the Asian Development Bank, in Samoa’s roads and bridges.
And we’re educating the next generation of Samoan leaders, with 56 Australia Award scholarships offered in 2019.
Our support for Samoa is a key part of Australia’s Pacific Step-up – a signal of our steadfast commitment to work more closely than ever with our Pacific partners to respond to the needs and priorities of our shared region.
As a regional leader and a vibrant democracy, Samoa is a critically important partner for Australia in the region.
I am immensely proud of our partnership with Samoa, of our achievements in 2019, and of the work we are doing together to make our Blue Pacific resilient, our economies stronger, and our communities safer and more secure.
It is in this spirit of partnership that I wish our Pacific family, and everyone gathered here tonight, a very happy Australia Day and a safe, healthy and prosperous 2020.
May I now propose a toast: please join me in raising your glasses:
To the health of His Highness the Head of State and Masiofo,
To the Government and the people of Samoa.