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Vanuatu

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Australia’s engagement in Vanuatu

Australia and Vanuatu share a strong connection as members of the Pacific family. Our relationship over the last 42 years demonstrates our long-standing and enduring ties, including through shared values, church and community links, and mutual respect. Our strong partnerships enable us to work closely together – in good times and in times of crises.

 

Group photo of officials. See caption for more details.
Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Ms Christine Clarke CSC and Australian High Commissioner to Vanuatu, H.E. Ms Heidi Bootle celebrating the 30-year Anniversary of the Vanuatu Women’s Centre with the Acting Director of Vanuatu’s Department of Women’s Affairs, Ms Seman Dalesa Saraken and former Coordinator and co-founder of Vanuatu Women’s Centre, Ms Merilyn Tahi. Credit: DFAT.

Development partnership

Australia is Vanuatu's largest bilateral development partner, providing over $119.5 million in grant-based Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Vanuatu in 2020-21. The focus of Australia's development program is to support the development of effective governance systems and institutions, facilitate economic growth and enable better-educated, healthier and resilient ni-Vanuatu people. Australia actively supports the Vanuatu government to respond to natural disasters, such as Tropical Cyclones Pam (2015) and Harold (2020), and respond to new shared challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Australia has provided a $23 million  to help Vanuatu respond to the health and economic challenges of COVID-19. This included support for Vanuatu’s economic stimulus package, health preparedness and response and school and community grants. Australia is funding critical upgrades to health infrastructure, providing medical equipment and supplies to protect frontline health workers, and funding new staff critical to COVID-19 planning and operations. Australia also supported the Ministry of Education and Training with school fee relief and its home schooling programs including funding a thrice weekly national home-schooling radio program which reaches children across Vanuatu. In addition, Australia has provided $11 million to enhance health systems and support vaccination rollout in all six provinces including supply of 160,000 vaccines.

Overview of Australia's development program to Vanuatu

 

Group photo of officials. See caption for more details.
Australian Deputy High Commissioner to Vanuatu, Ms Clemency Oliphant, Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office Mr Gregoire Nimbtik, Director General of the Ministry of Education & Training, Mr Bergmans Iati and the Director of Vanuatu Skills Partnership Mr Fremden Tanhambath during the signing ceremony for a new four year phase of the Vanuatu Skills Partnership. Credit: DFAT.

 

Photo of H.E. Ms Heidi Bootle talking with two staff members at the Northern Provincial Hospital.
H.E. Ms Heidi Bootle visited the Northern Provincial Hospital. Australia supported the establishment of the COVID-19 isolation ward, provincial vaccine storage facility and the Farm to hospital initiative in Luganville, Santo. Credit: DFAT.

Economic and trade overview

Most of Vanuatu's population lives in rural areas where subsistence farming, fishing and production of cash crops such as kava, coconut and cocoa are the main sources of livelihood. Goods exports are dominated by agricultural products, particularly kava, coconut products, beef and cocoa. Vanuatu's economic growth has been driven largely by tourism and construction. Prior to 2020, tourism and tourism-related services sectors (wholesale and retail trade, hotels and restaurants, and transport and communication) accounted for approximately 40 per cent of GDP and one third of people in formal employment. Two-thirds of long stay tourists to Vanuatu and almost all cruise ship passengers were Australian. Two-way goods and services trade between Australia and Vanuatu was valued at $113.7 million (2020-21).

Vanuatu is the largest source of Australia’s labour mobility scheme workers (7,000 in 2021-2022) and has participated strongly in the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme which provides visas for up to three years for semi-skilled work across all sectors in rural and regional Australia.

Security partnership

 

Photo of officials on Marine ship.
Vanuatu’s Guardian – Class Patrol Boat delivered under Australia’s Pacific Maritime Security Program. Credit: DFAT.

Australia and Vanuatu continue to deepen our security partnership, based on respect, shared values, and decades of security cooperation, driven by a shared interest in a safe and secure Pacific region. We are working together to build police capability and improve community safety and resilience. Guided by the Boe Declaration on regional security, we are working together to address the Pacific's unique security interests including transnational crime, health, environmental and cyber security.

On 13 December 2022, in Vanuatu, Australia and Vanuatu signed a signed a bilateral Security Agreement, concerning closer security relations [PDF 205 KB]. The Agreement recognises that our security cooperation continues to adapt, including to address the implications of climate change, to help manage the human security effects of COVID-19, and to meet shared challenges across the full scope of the Boe Declaration. Parties will now undertake their respective ratification processes.

 

Photo of Australian Defence officer repairing a radio tower whilst two Vanuatu people watch and learn.
Australia is partnering with Vanuatu to repair and upgrade the national government emergency radio network across Vanuatu. The Vanuatu Government Emergency Radio Network is being delivered over four years under the Vanuatu-Australia Defence Cooperation Program and will significantly increase Vanuatu’s disaster preparedness and response capability. Credit: DFAT.

In 2021, under the Pacific Maritime Security Program (PMSP), Australia gifted a new Guardian-class patrol boat to Vanuatu, RVS Takuare. In December 2022, Australia handed over the newly redeveloped Mala Base Wharf and gifted police boat RVS Mataweli to Vanuatu as part of our long-standing maritime security cooperation and to meet the infrastructure mooring requirements for RVS Takuare.

Australia is working closely with Vanuatu to redevelop the Cook and Tiroas barracks in Port Vila and Luganville. Under the Vanuatu Australia Policing and Justice Program, Australia is also providing organisational and capacity building support to the Vanuatu Police Force.

 

Group photo of Commander Melissa Northam with members of the Vanuatu Police Force.
Australian Federal Police Mission Commander Melissa Northam at the handover of new uniforms to the Vanuatu Police Force. Credit: DFAT.

 

Group photo of Christine Clarke and Heidi Bootle with Vanuatu’s Commissioner of Police and women leaders from Vanuatu’s security sector.
Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Ms Christine Clarke CSC and the Australian High Commissioner to Vanuatu, H.E Ms Heidi Bootle with Vanuatu’s Commissioner of Police and inspiring women leaders from Vanuatu’s security sector. Credit: DFAT.

People-to-people links

Australia and Vanuatu share strong people-to-people links across government, business and community. This was demonstrated by Vanuatu’s generous support following Australia’s bushfires in January 2020 when the Government of Vanuatu donated $250,000. The private sector and local community groups also undertook fundraising efforts to support Australia’s bushfire recovery.

 

Selfie photo of Elise Davey with another member of Promedical Vanuatu in a small aircraft.
Australian volunteers, like paramedic Elise Davey who works with Promedical Vanuatu, are supporting essential health services across Vanuatu. Credit: DFAT.

Prior to COVID-19 travel restrictions, Vanuatu received around 50 Australian Volunteers for International Development each year. These volunteers work in a wide range of sectors to contribute to Vanuatu's development and to build enduring people-to-people links between Australia and Vanuatu.

 

Group photo of participants holding certificates at the Ministry of Justice and Community Services launch event with first Secretary Stephanie Kimber.
The Australia-Vanuatu partnership spans all six provinces of Vanuatu’s. We partner at all levels of government and community leadership, including with Vanuatu’s traditional chiefly system. Participants at a Ministry of Justice and Community Services launch event at the Chief’s Nakamal with irst Secretary Stephanie Kimber. Credit: DFAT.

The Pacific Labour Mobility Scheme is helping to address labour shortages in rural and regional Australia.

Vanuatu is the largest source of workers for the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Programme. Labour mobility is a win-win for Australia and Vanuatu, helping to fill labour shortages in Australia and provide additional opportunities for workers to earn income and develop skills.

 

Photo of Ni-Vanuatu David Abel undertaking a safe driver training course in a virtual simulator.
Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme workers learn new skills they can take home. Ni-Vanuatu David Abel joined more than two dozen PALM scheme workers at a safe driver training course in Toowoomba, Queensland. Alongside him were workers from Papua New Guinea, Samoa and the Solomon Islands. Credit: DFAT.

 

Australia Awards offer the next generation of Vanuatu's leaders an opportunity to undertake study, research and professional development in Australia and the Pacific region. Australia Awards complement development assistance to Vanuatu by building human resources in priority sectors.

 

Group photo of graduates on stage holding their certificates.
9 Vanuatu Police officers graduated from the Australia - Pacific Training Coalition (APTC) with certificate IV in Leadership and Management. Credit: DFAT.

Through these prestigious scholarships, Australia is supporting ni-Vanuatu students to build the skills and knowledge to drive change and influence economic and social development.

 

Judge with flowers
Viran Molisa-Trief Australia Award Alumni – Master of Public Policy, graduated at the end of 2011 and is now the first Ni-Vanuatu female judge of the Supreme Court. Photo: DFAT

High level visits

February 2023: Prime Minister of Vanuatu, the Hon Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau Ma’aukoro, visited Australia as a guest of the Australian Government.

December 2022: Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Penny Wong, Minister for International Development and the Pacific, the Hon Pat Conroy MP, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham and Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific, the Hon Michael McCormack visited Vanuatu, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Palau on the first bipartisan visit to Pacific island countries since 2019.

November 2022: Minister for International Development and the Pacific, the Hon Pat Conroy MP, attended the Pacific Community (SPC) Ministerial Conference in Vanuatu.

August 2022: Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services, the Hon Stephen Jones MP, attended the Pacific Island Forum’s Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM) in Vanuatu.

October 2019: Former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, returned to Vanuatu for further meetings with the Government of Vanuatu and also to visit Luganville, on the island of Santo.

August 2019: Former Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Alex Hawke, visited Vanuatu for the Pacific Wastewater Ministers meeting.

February 2019: Former Assistant Minister for Trade Tourism and Investment, Mark Coulton, visited Vanuatu to attend the Australia-Vanuatu Business Forum.

February 2019: Former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, visited Vanuatu for meetings with the Government of Vanuatu.

January 2019: Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the first bilateral visit to Vanuatu by an Australian Prime Minister, accompanied by the then Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator the Hon Anne Ruston.

June 2018: Former Prime Minister of Vanuatu, the Hon Charlot Salwai MP, visited Australia as a guest of the Australian Government.

April 2018: Former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, accompanied His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales on his visit Vanuatu, as part of His Royal Highness' Australian Tour.

August 2017: Ambassador for Women and Girls, Sharman Stone, visited Vanuatu to attend the Pacific Women's Advisory Board Meeting.

July 2017: Former Governor-General, the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), visited Vanuatu (Port Vila) for the late President, His Excellency Reverend Womtelo Baldwin Lonsdale's funeral.

December 2016: A bipartisan delegation visited Vanuatu. The delegation comprised the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, then Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Senator the Hon Penny Wong, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Senator Claire Moore, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific.

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