Stepping up in New Caledonia
As close neighbours, New Caledonia and Australia share a special relationship, based on our longstanding historical friendship, indigenous linkages, our considerable mineral wealth, and our unique biodiversity and marine reserves.
2020 marked the 80th anniversary of official relations (Noumea was Australia's fourth diplomatic mission to open, after London, Washington and Ottawa), as well as the important role Australia played, through the presence of HMAS Adelaide, in the installation of a pro-Free France Governor in New Caledonia during World War II.
New Caledonia became a full member of the Pacific Islands Forum in 2016. Australia strongly supports the territory's ongoing integration into the Pacific region.
During the COVID-19 crisis, Australia worked closely with New Caledonia to ensure the ongoing movement of essential goods and people. This included the assurance of urgent life-saving medical treatment for New Caledonian residents under a medical evacuation agreement during the crisis.
Facing growing regional challenges, and in the spirit of the Pacific Islands Forum Boe Declaration on Regional Security, we are working with New Caledonia and France to identify and respond to threats, such as illegal fishing, environmental protection and trafficking.
New Caledonia is participating in the recently established Pacific Fusion Centre, which will share information from multiple sources to strengthen the ability of Pacific Governments to enforce their laws and protect their sovereignty. New Caledonia recently seconded an analyst to the centre.
We work closely with the French Armed Forces in New Caledonia (FANC) through the FRANZ Agreement on humanitarian and disaster response in the Pacific, as well as through our significant regular participation in joint military exercises, including Exercise Croix du Sud, held every two years in New Caledonia. FANC deployed to Tonga alongside Australian and Fijian forces in support of Operation Tonga Assist 22. In late 2020, defence ties increased further through the establishment of a new ADF Defence Liaison Officer to the FANC based in Noumea.
Education is at the heart of our relationship with New Caledonia. Studying in Australia provides young New Caledonians with the opportunity to learn English and study topics of direct relevance to their region. In 2020, Australia and France, together with New Caledonian authorities, formalised the creation of the Australian International Section, which had been piloted in New Caledonian schools since 2017. The International Section allows French — and New Caledonian – middle and high schools to teach Australian approved content as part of their standard curriculum and improve their English language skills.
Since 2018, New Caledonia has also welcomed New Colombo Plan students from Australian universities for invaluable internships and study visits to facilitate the discovery of the French Pacific.
New Caledonians and Australians share a passion for sports, especially rugby and football, and we have been able to utilise the Pacific Sports Partnerships Program to develop linkages and promote sports for development.
Surrounded by a UNESCO world heritage listed lagoon and reef system — the second largest in the world — New Caledonia is a fitting location for the Kiwa Initiative Secretariat. The Kiwa Initiative is led by France, with funding from Australia, the EU, Canada and New Zealand. The pooled donor funding supports grants for Pacific communities and regional organisations to strengthen resilience to climate change through biodiversity initiatives. Australian and French scientists work closely with researchers from the French Institute for Research and Development and the Pacific Community to protect coral reef ecosystems and develop solar energy in small island states.
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