- His Excellency, Mr Paramasivum-Pillay Vyapoory, Acting President of the Republic of Mauritius
- The Hon Ivan Collendavelloo, Acting Prime Minister
- The Right Hon Sir Anerood Jugnauth, Minister Mentor and Minister of Defence, Minister of Rodrigues
- The Hon Fazila Jeewa Daureawoo, the Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Local Government and Outer Islands, Minister of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare
- Honourable Ministers
- Members of the Diplomatic Corps
- Distinguished guests
- Fellow Australians
We feel very honoured to have you join us this evening to celebrate Australia Day. A day where Australians in Australia and around the world come together to celebrate all the things we love about our nation – the land, the lifestyle, democracy, sense of a fair go, the freedoms, and particularly the people.
It’s a day to acknowledge and celebrate the contribution that every Australian makes - from our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – who have been living in Australia for more than 65,000 years, to those that have come from all corners of the globe to call Australia home.
Thank you for sharing this day with us allowing us an opportunity to recognize Australia’s active international agenda and the important friendships and partnerships we have forged – including here in Mauritius – as we pursue our shared interests of peace and prosperity.
I know Australia is familiar to many of you. In fact, some of your family members might even call it home! As you know, Australia is home to one of the largest Mauritian diasporas in the world and they play an active role in the Australian community. It is also great to see how they are giving back to the community in Mauritius.
These people to people links form the bedrock of our relationship – and they are growing. From students, tourists, business people, government, and parliament, we’ve seen an increase in exchanges over the last year. And we look forward to working together to make these links even stronger.
Today as we celebrate Australia Day, I am pleased to not only look back at our two countries cooperation over the last year, but also look ahead as we further strengthen our partnerships and pursue shared interests.
2018 was an important year for Mauritius – and for our relations. It was rich in exchanges which began with the historic visit by the Speaker of Australia’s House of Representatives [January], the visit later in the year by the Hon Minister Ivan Collendavelloo to attend Australia-Africa Week [August], and the visit by Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls attending Mauritius’s chairing of the inaugural IORA Ministerial Meeting on Women’s Economic Empowerment.
Mauritius has worked hard to promote economic growth and a business friendly environment and I would like to recognize the impressive global ratings in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business, the Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance and Global Competitiveness.
Against this backdrop, the last year delivered substantive outcomes as we sought to grow our education, research and commercial partnerships.
We reached a new chapter in our commercial relations with the launch of the Australian Chamber of Commerce (AustCham) and we thank AustCham Mauritius for their presence tonight – showcasing some of Australia’s premium food and beverages. We hope AustCham will play an important role in promoting greater trade and investment links between Australia and Mauritius, and the broader region, recognizing the strategic position Mauritius has as a platform to Africa, including in the financial services sector.
I was honoured to have attended Mauritius official celebrations of its 50 years of independence. And over the last year, the High Commission partnered with Mauritius to support events for its golden jubilee, including the inaugural Australia-Mauritius Research and Innovation Forum – which launched the Mauritian Chapter of the Organisation of Women in Science – and the “G’day Moris Australia Week Festival” where we stepped up our government relations with inaugural senior official talks and I had the honour of jointly planting Australia’s gift – the rare and unique Wollemi Pine – in the SSR Botanical Gardens.
This month will see the departure of Mauritian Masters students who have received Australian Awards scholarships. We were pleased to have had some 28 students from 12 African countries in Mauritius last year for the Australia Awards short course in Ocean Management and Sustainable Fisheries Governance delivered by the University of Wollongong with the University of Mauritius.
Australia – with its world class education and research credentials - is committed to supporting Mauritius as a regional education hub and contributing to innovation and skills development to meet the challenges of the future. This was reflected in the milestone last year with the establishment of Australia’s first university campus – Curtin Mauritius. And more and more Australian education institutions are actively pursuing partnerships with Mauritian vocational education institutions and universities.
We continued our advocacy on gender based violence recognizing White Ribbon Day by working with partners, including the Ministry of Gender, to raise funds for Women’s Shelters Chrysalide and Passerelle. We were pleased that with the support of the UNDP, the South Australian Department of Corrections is working with the government to develop a domestic violence perpetrator rehabilitation program – recognizing the role of the Parliamentary Gender Caucus in promoting these important issues.
Through our community small grants program we have continued to promote good governance and human rights with the setting up of a regional on-line human rights education programme led by Dis-Mois and supporting Transparency International on ethics training for the Mauritian Police. Our health and humanitarian focus saw the setting up the first warehouse in Rodrigues for essential relief items and emergency stock for the Red Cross which will ensure a quicker and efficient response to natural disasters and emergencies.
I could not end my review of highlights from last year without mentioning the International Conference on the Young Person’s Plan for the Planet – bringing for the first time some 50 high school students from Australia to work with their Mauritian peers on how to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. I thank all those involved in this initiative, particularly the Rajiv Gandhi Science Centre and it’s partnership with the Australian National University and Questacon – with ambitious plans to roll out the program to other nations in the Indo-Pacific region. It is inspiring to see the leadership of our youth in Australia and Mauritius working together to promote sustainable economic development.
Like Mauritius – Australia is a free, open, democracy. We are a country that respects the rule of law, human rights, and supports an open and inclusive region.
Australian interests in the Indian Ocean are clear: Australia has one of the largest EEZ in the world (81 million square kms); the largest search and rescue zone in the Indian Ocean (53 million square kms); and more than half of all Australia’s exports depart from Indian Ocean ports. The peaceful and open character of this ocean is a vital national interest for Australia. And we believe all nations have a responsibility to work together to keep the Indo-Pacific open, prosperous and stable – and to promote and protect the international rules that support stability and prosperity and enable cooperation to tackle global challenges.
We look forward to continuing to work with Mauritius and countries in the region to promote this agenda – including through the Indian Ocean Rim Association. Recognising that Australia has been a long-term contributor to broader Indian Ocean security – with our naval ships within the multinational coalition combating transnational crime – including drug trafficking – in the north west Indian Ocean and Middle East region for many years. Mauritius chairing of the Indian Ocean Commission’s Maritime Security Conference last year was an important contribution to this agenda.
Clearly the blue economy will continue to be a focus of our cooperation in the year ahead – which we hope to see strengthened with the delivery later this year of an Australian built multi-purpose research vessel - a partnership with the Mauritian Ministry of Ocean Economy to build capacity in this important sector. Our co-championing of coral reef regeneration as part of the Commonwealth’s Blue Charter will also see us working more closely on science, research and sustainable use of the ocean’s resources. And we are pleased that delegates from the Australia Africa Universities Network are expected to meet at the University of Mauritius in the middle of the year.
I am delighted to kickstart 2019 with this indigenous art exhibition here tonight. Yiwarra Kuju tells the story of the Canning Stock Route through indigenous art. The Stock Route is an 1800-kilometer road carved through the heart of Australia’s Western Desert region. It was created more than 100 years ago to walk cattle from Australia’s north to the beef markets in the south and became the frontier upon which Aboriginal people first encountered European settlers. My husband Julien and I have spent some long hours driving along the roads and tracks of this remote region meeting with local aboriginal communities along the way.
Tonight is a preview of the Exhibition which will be open for public viewing later this year. The stories embedded in the paintings add a new dimension that we hope will allow you to enjoy Aboriginal art not just for its beauty, but also for its cultural significance. Thank you to our sponsors Dukesbridge and Curtin Mauritius for your support allowing us to showcase this important element of Australian history to mark Australia Day in Mauritius this year.
So in the spirit of our many shared interests, collaborations and friendships across so many domains - please enjoy a glass of Australian wine tonight and the celebration of our National Day.
25 January 2019