Pacific Step-Up - strengthening Pacific ties in uncertain times
Defence’s partnership with our Pacific family during 2019–20 included working together on a range of security challenges affecting our region.
We remain committed to our enduring engagement through the Defence Cooperation Program and our contribution to the whole-of-government Pacific Step-Up.
In 2019, Defence worked closely with security partners across the Pacific to deliver tailored maritime and land training activities, as well as sports and health engagements that were priorities for Pacific Island military and security forces.
The inaugural Joint Heads of Pacific Security event, co-hosted by Defence, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Border Force, was held in Brisbane in October 2019. Security leaders from Pacific Island nations came together for strategic-level dialogue and demonstrations. Participants engaged in discussions around transnational, organised and serious crime; border security; and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
Our collective humanitarian assistance and disaster relief response capabilities were tested in the months that followed by the Australian bushfires and the devastating tropical cyclones Harold and Tino. Our neighbours from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces’ Bula Force came to our aid to support Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST 2019–2020.
His Majesty’s Armed Forces of Tonga (HMAF) and the ADF during a Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HADR) amphibious demonstration in Nuku`alofa, Tonga.
We were able to return the favour when the tropical cyclones passed over the South Pacific Ocean and left communities in need of essential items. In support of Australia’s whole-of- government efforts, several Air Force flights delivered humanitarian aid to Fiji and Vanuatu.
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a number of logistical challenges for Defence’s international engagement. Defence Cooperation Program staff led the way in country to adapt the program to support Pacific COVID-19 responses and changing security priorities.
Despite the challenges, we continued to partner with Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands on significant infrastructure projects that will enhance the security capability of the Pacific.
While restrictions were in place in response to COVID-19, we worked with our regional partners to adjust our support. We were able to continue construction of Fiji’s Blackrock Camp through local contractors; commence early works at Papua New Guinea’s Lombrum Naval Base; and conduct planning and consultation for all infrastructure projects.
The Pacific Maritime Security Program delivered four Guardian class patrol boats to Tonga, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Fiji from June 2019 to March 2020. Defence worked closely with our Pacific partners to provide sustainment to patrol boat operations in the region where possible.
Defence is committed to returning to a full program of engagement with our Pacific security partners to support them in their COVID-19 recovery and in the years to follow.