A new year, an enduring commitment to the people of Solomon Islands
From building COVID-19 preparedness to helping restore law and order through the Solomons’ International Assistance Force, Australia is here to support all Solomon Islanders
2021 proved to be another challenging year for us all as we grappled with the impacts of COVID-19 in both Solomon Islands and in Australia. Despite these difficult times, Australia is proud to have stood alongside Solomon Islands, including by providing SBD 1.2 billion of assistance through our ongoing development program and COVID support packages.
Close to two years into the global pandemic, Solomon Islands remains free of COVID-19 community transmission, a considerable feat. With new variants emerging and the virus spreading uncontrollably across the world, Solomon Islands will continue to be tested. Australia remains committed to supporting Solomon Islands strengthen its preparedness and resilience against COVID-19.
This year, we will continue to deliver on our pledge to supply Solomon Islands with up to one million doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. To date, we have delivered over 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca, and look forward to providing our first delivery of Pfizer vaccines, in partnership with UNICEF, in the coming months.
Alongside these deliveries, we are working closely with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and development partners to provide support for training, technical advice and logistics to bolster the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Solomon Islands. We are on track to complete work on additional Australian-funded laboratories in the provinces and equipment to expand in-country COVID-19 testing, as well as isolation wards and sea ambulances.
Beyond COVID-19, we will continue to place a high priority on the safety and security of all Solomon Islanders, supporting the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF), including through Australia’s contribution to the Solomons’ International Assistance Force (SIAF).
I was saddened by the events of 24-26 November, which resulted in the loss of life and the destruction of buildings across Honiara. I extend my condolences to the families of those who lost loved ones, and to everyone impacted by the events, including businesses and school communities affected.
While I hoped there wouldn’t ever come a time when we would need to activate our 2017 Bilateral Security Treaty, I’m pleased Australia responded swiftly and effectively to provide urgent assistance in response to a request from the Solomon Islands Government, and to do so in a COVID safe manner.
Within 24 hours of the formal request, Australia agreed to provide assistance to the people of Solomon Islands in line with our Treaty arrangements, with the first Australian Royal Australian Airforce (RAAF) flight landing at Henderson airport on the evening of 25 November 2021.
To date, there have been nineteen RAAF flights to Honiara with SIAF, deploying more than 200 AFP, Defence and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade personnel to support the RSIPF to restore calm in Honiara and delivering sustainment supplies for SIAF forces. Royal Australian Navy vessel HMAS Armidale provided maritime security support off the coast of Honiara in early December 2021.
SIAF continues to support the RSIPF to maintain security in Honiara, including by conducting high-visibility patrols and protection of critical infrastructure, such as Honiara Port, as well as RSIPF training activities and ongoing community engagement across Honiara.
The protection of livelihoods and the health of Solomon Islanders is of utmost importance to us. Our deployment has taken all possible precautions to prevent COVID-19 transmission. Our personnel have followed all advice set by the Solomon Islands Government, been vigorously tested and all are fully vaccinated.
I’m proud that Australian personnel, together with our Pacific partners Fiji, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, were able to quickly integrate with and support the RSIPF to rapidly restore law and order in Honiara. This is a testament to the strong connections, understanding and interoperability forged between our police, defence and border agencies in Australia and Solomon Islands, including through our longstanding security support during and since RAMSI.
Australia is committed to building the capability of the RSIPF providing ongoing support through the RSIPF-AFP Policing Partnership Program (RAPPP) in areas spanning core policing skills, investigations and riot control, to infrastructure and transnational crime. Under our longstanding Defence Cooperation Program, we are continuing to support the operation of Solomon Islands Guardian-class Patrol Boats RSPIV Gizo and RSPIV Taro, delivered by Australia, and are building the capacity of the RSIPF to safely remove WWII-era unexploded ordnance. Infrastructure projects like the Western Border and Patrol Boat Outpost and the Hells Point security upgrades will provide an enduring boost to Solomon Islands national security.
Australia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and New Zealand share a joint commitment to Pacific regional security and stability and an enduring economic and security partnership. SIAF is a strong example of how the Pacific Family is best placed to respond to situations affecting our region’s security and stability.
Australia has been working closely with Solomon Islands since the start of the recent unrest, and we will help Solomon Islands recover over the longer term. We have an enduring partnership spanning more than just our security relationship. Our longstanding development programs, including in areas such as health, education, gender equality, infrastructure and governance, will continue to support Solomon Islands including recovery efforts following the unrest. Australia is Solomon Islands’ largest development partner, providing around two-thirds of all assistance to Solomon Islands.
Solomon Islands is our neighbour, our partner and an important member of the Pacific Family. From COVID-19 to responding to security challenges, Solomon Islanders can rest assured Australia can be counted on to support our Pacific family and to stand by our close friend.