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Opening of RFNS Stanley Brown Wharf, Suva, Fiji

[As delivered]

Bula Vinaka.

  • The Honourable Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama
  • The Honourable Inia Seruiratu, Minister of Defence, National Security, and Policing
  • Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, Major General Jone Kalouniwai
  • Commodore Humphrey Tawake, Chief of the Republic of Fiji Navy and Deputy Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces
  • Your Excellency Mr John Feakes, Australia’s High Commissioner to Fiji
  • Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great honour and privilege for Linda and me to be with you this afternoon to mark the official re-opening of the Stanley Brown Wharf.

The Stanley Brown Wharf upgrade, along with the newly opened Blackrock Camp and the soon-to-be constructed Maritime Essential Services Centre, have brought our shared regional aspirations, and our people, closer.

The completion of the Wharf is a significant milestone for the Australia-Fiji Defence relationship, the Republic of Fiji Navy and the region.

I have been informed the Wharf will be home to your Guardian-class Patrol Boats, RFNS Savenaca, and RFNS Puamau when she joins your fleet next year.

RFNS Savenaca has already played a critical role in Fiji’s COVID-response and in responding to regional challenges.

Fiji’s leadership in the maritime domain is impressive, and testament to your leadership in the region.

Geography – specifically the oceans – has and will always define the Pacific. Millenia of rich cultural histories have built ancient seafaring nations that are spread across thousands of islands.

As island nations, we know that maritime security is critical to the safety and security of our region. It is the theatre in which strategic competition and the pressures on the rules-based system are most acute.

We value Fiji’s contribution to a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific – one where the rule of law is paramount and freedom of navigation is respected.

While the sea brings great prosperity, it is also a vector for traditional and non-traditional security threats. These threats range from economic and environmental, to transnational crime.

The ability to protect the oceans and ensure they benefit our peoples is fundamental. Already, our maritime cooperation is making the region safer while supporting the rule of law. We are at our best when we face these threats together – as partners, and as a region.

Nature has thrown plenty at both our countries over the last few years. Australia has experienced fire, flood, cyclones, a mouse plague and, of course, a pandemic. Fiji, too, has experienced the pandemic, and also Tropical Cyclone Ana in 2021 and Tropical Cyclone Yasa in 2020.

Yet in the face of these challenges and difficulties, our Defence relationship has grown stronger. This is evidenced by:

  • the deployment of Bula Force to Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST in Australia in January 2020
  • the ADF response to Tropical Cyclone Yasa
  • our co-deployments to Tonga and Solomon Islands
  • and the support of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces for the contingent deployed in Australia as part of Operation FLOOD ASSIST.  

On behalf of all Australians I want to thank the people of Fiji for supporting Australia in our hour of need.

I have mentioned to your President and your Prime Minister how grateful the people of Victoria were to the engineers who came down to East Gippsland. They created a great light and a joy in very dark times for the people there.

While we never wish for natural disasters to occur, we do need to be prepared. Stanley Brown Wharf will support Fiji's preparations and better enable us and regional partners to support Fiji in responding to natural disasters, in the same way that Fiji continues to support our Pacific family.

Congratulations to all involved in the delivery of the Stanley Brown Wharf upgrade. Again, I’m informed today’s re-opening is the result of a true team effort, in the best spirit of vuvale. Our teams have worked side by side, adopting COVID-safe protocols and overcoming significant challenges.

I particularly want to thank Permanent Secretary Lesuma and Commodore Tawake for their leadership on this project, and the Australians who joined you on the journey – Maritime Surveillance Advisor Lieutenant Commander Julia Griffin and Technical Advisor Chief Petty Officer Terry Lucas.

This Wharf is a comprehensive maritime capability enabler. It is also a symbol of the strong and enduring partnership between Australia and Fiji.

‘Vinaka vakalevu' and God Bless, Fiji.