Australian Delegation says goodbye to Solomon Islands

We have just enjoyed a visit to Solomon Islands by a senior Australian delegation, led by Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop.

Ms Bishop was accompanied by Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Senator Brett Mason, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and Opposition shadow Foreign Minister the Hon Tanya Plibersek, and the Hon Matt Thistlethwaite, along with Australia’s new Global Ambassador for Women and Girls, Ms Natasha Stott Despoja.

The visit reinforced Australia’s enduring commitment to Solomon Islands as the country’s main development, trade and security partner.

Ms Bishop told me repeatedly during the visit she was determined to set the foundations for an even stronger economic and strategic bilateral partnership.

Ms Bishop hosted a breakfast for business leaders, travelled with the delegation to Avu Avu on the Weathercoast, visited Burns Creek, the Australian-led RAMSI, the Forum Fisheries Agency and paid a call on Prime Minister Lilo.

Ms Bishop and Prime Minister Lilo discussed the future of relations between our two countries and the shared determination to work together to grow Solomon Islands’ economy, create jobs and deliver essential services.  

Gender was also a focus of the visit, and the Minister expressed Australia’s determination to help Solomon Islands women reach their full potential in leadership roles in business, community and political life.

They also heard first hand of the unacceptable violence visited upon women and girls in Solomon Islands, and joined Sister Doreen and the remarkable team at World Vision and Solomon Islands Women in Business in saying ‘Naf Nau!’ 

At a reception on Tuesday night, Ms Bishop congratulated the 60 Australia Awards scholarship recipients, and met with the Solomon Islands scholarship Alumni.

In congratulating the 2014 scholars, Ms Bishop said the scholarships represent a significant investment in the long term development of Solomon Islands.

The Foreign Minister’s visit also marked the conclusion of my posting to Solomon Islands, so this is my final column.

I am delighted to welcome to Solomon Islands HE Mr Andrew Byrne, and his wife Dawn and their children Henry and Zahra.

Andrew is no stranger to this region, having served with distinction with the Peace Monitoring Group on Bougainville.

I congratulate Andrew on the honour it is to be appointed as Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands.

Our two and a half years are full of memories my family and I will treasure.

Solomon Islands – its Government and its people – have lavished me with so many and profound courtesies, both professional and personal, that have highlighted our truly remarkable relationship.

You are the Happy Isles, and for the Anderson family, will forever remain.

A final thank you to my wonderful team at the Australian High Commission for all they have done to advance Australia’s standing in Solomon Islands.

Each and every one of them are most worthy ambassadors. 

God bless Solomon Islands, and Merry Christmas to you all.

Solomon Star

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