Australia increases aid to Solomons in wake of tsunami | Pacific Beat

Australia increases aid to Solomons in wake of tsunami

Australia increases aid to Solomons in wake of tsunami

Updated 11 February 2013, 10:56 AEDT

Australia's Foreign Minister, Senator Bob Carr, has commited extra aid for the earthquake and tsunami damaged Santa Cruz Islands in Solomon Islands.

The foreign minister says Australia will send two AUSAID workers to assess the damage and help coordinate the relief effort.

Australia is also funding a flight to take medical staff to the affected region and to evacuate severely injured people for treatment in Honiara.

Senator Carr says Australia is standing by to help the Solomons in the recovery process.

Presenter:Geraldine Coutts

Speaker:Sean Dorney, Australia Network Pacific Correspondent

DORNEY: We didn't see any. This flight into the Solomons was not actually part of the original trip. Senator Carr was going to make a three or four day trip firstly visiting Kiribati, then going to Samoa, then to Vanuatu, then back to Canberra. But because of the tsunami, a very late adjustment to the trip was made. There was an attempt made to try and fly over the Santa Cruz Islands to see some of the damage, but the arrangements with the meetings with President Anote Tong, in Kiribati, meant that if we had done that diversion, we would not have been able to get here to Tarawa last night, because it would have been after dark.

So what happened is that we flew directly to the Honiara airport. The Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Gordon Darcy Lilo came out to the airport and they had quite a long discussion there and that's it. We never left the airport precincts, jumped back on the plane and headed here to Kiribati.

COUTTS: Well, how much of the detail do you know Sean then about how much money is being committed to and the clean up and the survivors of the earthquake and tsunami in Solomons?

DORNEY: Well, it's a quarter-of-a-million Australian dollars been given to the Solomon Islands Red Cross to help them with assistance following the tsunami. There's also quite a bit of money that's been provided for, as you mentioned, in the lead in for the flights up there, and taking doctors up there and evacuating patients out. Money is being provided for the patrol boat to make a special trip up there. So there's quite a few and Senator Carr has sort of said really that Australia is ready to respond to whatever else the Solomon Islands might want.

Gordon Darcy Lilo was extremely thankful for this. He thanked Senator Carr and said that the people of the Solomons really appreciated how quickly Australia had responded to this tsunami, which, as of yesterday, the death toll was ten, but quite a significant amount of damage to quite a number of villages out in that part of the Solomons.

COUTTS: Alright, Sean. Well, you're in Kiribati at the moment and you're going on to Samoa. What's the point of this trip?

DORNEY: Well actually, before we leave the Solomons, I might just say one of the other things that came up, which you maybe interested in is that Australia and Solomon Islands are both now on the board of UN Women, United Nations Women's Organisation and Gordon Darcy Lilo said to Senator Carr that could Australia provide a bit of financial support if the Solomons appointed a special roving ambassador on gender issues to travel around the Pacific and look at issues relating to women in development and also domestic violence and other issues. Senator Carr responded pretty strongly to this and James Batley, who is the Deputy head of AusAID who was travelling with Senator Carrr said that this would fit very well with him that amount of money that Julia Gillard announced at the Forum meeting last year for gender issues in the Pacific, so I thought that was quite an interesting development there in the Solomons.

Here in Kiribati, the whole issue is climate change and education. Senator Carr is going to be visiting some education establishments here that are being supported by Australia. But last night, there was a dinner hosted by President Tong at which he said he was so pleased Australia was now on the Security Council, because there was no greater security threat to the people of Kiribati than climate change. He said that Kiribati was receiving overwhelming support verbally from people around the world, but they actually wanted to see a bit of action and he was looking to Senator Carr and Australia to push this whole issue of climate change as a security threat. Senator Carr said yes, that would be something that Australia would do. He said the Kiribati government's role in alerting the world to the problems of climate change was vital and he said you people here confirm it as a living reality to the rest of the world the problems of climate change.

Anote Tong, has put a lot of effort into trying to improve education standards in Kiribati and he said that if it does come to a situation where the people have to migrate, he doesn't want them to migrate as climate refugees, but as well educated people who can contribute to the societies they're moving into.

COUTTS: Alright, and they've bought land in Fiji, not necessarily for the purpose of moving to, but just in case. It's an insurance policy you've got land in Fiji if they need it. And Samoa, I'm sorry, go ahead?

DORNEY: Food security as you say.

COUTTS: That's right, yes. Now, Samoa. What will be on the agenda for discussion there?

DORNEY: The visit to Samoa I'm led to believe is about talking to Prime Minister Tuilaepa and the government there about their recovery from the cyclone that caused some devastation there late last year. Senator Carr is also going to visit some educational establishments over there. The Pacific Training College, where Australia is funding training and hospitality and trade. That's one of the places he'll be visiting. And then after that, we head off to Vanuatu. I'm not entirely sure what's on the Vanuatu agenda, but he will be meeting I believe with Prime Minister Kilman.

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